Life in Eve: Got a joke for you…

How does a “roleplay-oriented, pro-Minmatar, faction warfare alliance” that has been dealing with the game’s alliance mechanics for EIGHT YEARS end up in a situation where they get kicked out of the war because their collective standings with the Minmatar are too low?

Except I'm not fucking laughing.

I’m taking a day off, I guess. Fuck.

Life in Eve: Getting Ready for Retribution

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Eugidi constellation, but after we recaptured Floseswin, we called a few days of rest to mess around with more casual roaming, running some missions for the TLF, and getting prepped for upcoming ship changes this week. It’s really a pretty huge expansion, revamping so many ships that currently don’t see any kind of use on the game. Over 40 updated ships, about 30 of which are never currently flown — in essence, this quadruples the number of viable ship options people will have, which is just… huge. It’s huge.

Anyway, like many of my fellow corp leaders, I burn a couple days with CB, tracking down some of the soon-to-be-useful ship hulls and (as much as I can) refitting them in ways that don’t work right now but WILL work in a few days, then moving them to the war zone. This process takes a LOT of hauling, so I beg Berke to dust off his rarely used freighter to save me some pain. Thoraxes getting faster. Stabbers and Mallers suddenly not terrible. Arbitrators… man, I can’t wait for the arbitrators. Or Kestrels. Or Exequrors. Or Bellicoses. Bellicoseses. Bellicosi. Whatever. It almost makes the hours spent fitting and moving prepped ships worth it.

Almost.

Still, shipping contracts are complete for the finalized ships and I actually find I’ve got a little time to… you know… fly around in space. I do that, heading toward the now mostly unused corporate office near Egglehende to work out moving the last of our corp resources to our current system. As I’m flying through Dal, one of my alliance mates hails me, asking if I’m in a combat worthy ship.

What? Why? Why are you asking? Is something going on? What's going on? Lemme see!

I still have a few frigates in a local hangar, so I get into one and ask what’s going on.

He’s apparently spotted a Slasher hanging around outside one of the minor complexes in system. He suggests he try to pin it down, and I come in and actually blow it up, since he’s really not built for such things in his fleet interceptor. Sounds like a good plan to me.

“It might cascade,” he says, “but whatever.”

I don’t ask what he means, and I suppose I probably should have.

I warp to him, but the affects around the warp acceleration gate pulls me off course and I land next to the structure and right on top of the Slasher.

Wait… that’s not the Slasher, that’s ANOTHER slasher — that’s the slasher’s buddy. The first slasher is about 30 kilometers away and closing fast.

My own ship (an Imperial Navy Slicer I liberated from the Amarr) doesn’t like being so close to the enemy, (who now has not one but two webs on me), so I overheat my microwarpdrive and pull range JUST before the second Slasher gets close enough to cause me heartache.

I go to work on my first target, battling his shield booster with pulse lasers — it’s a slow battle, but one I know I’ll when when the shield booster runs out of charges. In fact, it would be almost boring if it weren’t for the maneuvering battle required to maintain proper range with the first target while keeping away from the second slasher, who’s trying to get close enough to shut down my drives. It’s complicated. (There’s another enemy ship nearby, but he’s wasting time chasing the interceptor that first started this thing, so he’s not an issue.)

Then the Incursus lands right next to us and comes after me.

Just as the 2nd slicer gets a web on me. No bueno.

Now I know what the other guy meant when he said things might Cascade.

Once again, I overheat my microwarpdrive (a touchy piece of machinery that does NOT like to be driven beyond factory specifications) and try to pull out of the 2nd slicer’s range. It’s working, but slowly.

Then, a wonderful thing happens. Just as I’m about to break out of the web of Slasher #2, my main target decides to try to get close enough to hit me with his short range autocannons. I break the webs and quickly pull away, but he continues to try to catch up to me, which pulls him into straight-line pursuit right behind me. As far as my targeting computer is concerned, he might as well be standing still.

The Slasher explodes, and the pilot’s pod warps free. His friends decide this is a sign of how things will go, and both vacate the field.

Which is good, because I just completely burnt my microwarpdrive out. Oops.

I limp back to station to repair, my mate (who didn’t get a shot on anyone) picks over the wreck, and I get to enjoy a completely unexpected adrenaline rush after a long day of hauling and logistics.

All in all, pretty good day.

Life in Eve: BOUSes? I don’t believe they exist…

Woo-hoo! November insanity coming to a close! Our little faction warfare corp has joined an established FW alliance! I seem to have an exclamation point surplus I need to run through!

After some administrative tedium in the new home system, I set out in a cruiser fleet with JR at the helm, heading to the system of Aset, where our cunning plan is to sweep into an enemy Complex and start capturing it in the hopes of a proper fight.

Our plan seems to be paying off: scouts report an Amarr fleet inbound from the southern part of the war zone. Sounds like they’ve got greater numbers than our armor gang (15 vs. 25 or so), but roughly the same basic ship composition.

Our opponents arrive in system in what looks like two groups — maybe that’s just some stragglers catching up. Combined by their delay (and a request in /local comms for a quick bathroom break from one of our slightly more drunk pilots), there’s just enough time for a smaller friendly shield gang to slip into the complex with us and achieve optimal combat ranges, bringing our total friendly force in the complex to only a few less than the Amarr, who hit the gate and warp in. The fight is on!

Or at least I assume it is, as I’m immediately volleyed off the field and I have to run and get another ship.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good fight, and went on for so long that I was actually able to reship and make it back in time to take over target calling for the last few ships (all the real fleet commanders had been forced off the field by that point). In contrast to the last few fights I’ve been in, the group’s discipline was really good — which is to say everyone was actually shooting what the target-callers said to shoot. This sounds like a pretty basic thing, but for some reason it’s been terribly DIFFICULT for us in the past, and everyone really pulled it together.

Also (and this may not sound like a good thing, but…) it wasn’t clear until fairly near the end which side would eventually hold the field, and that made it a very engaging fight. Ultimately, we persevered. Early losses were managed, discipline continued even after our support ships were brought down, and we were left with a few pilots still standing at the end, going through the pockets of our comrades, looking for loose change. Good fight.

I, like Wesley, was quite surprised to discover my error.

Then it was time to reship (well, not for me: I’d done that already :P.)

The Amarr seemed ready to go at it again, but had a longer trek than we did to reship, so we were more than ready when scouts reported their return. Some of us had reshipped to battlecruisers, because… reasons, I guess. The Amarr had brought cruisers, however, and forced the size restriction by moving into a Minmatar Complex in Floseswin that wouldn’t admit any of our larger ships.

(That is, incidentally, one of the faction warfare features I have a great, manly, hetero love toward. Moving on.)

Anyway, our battlecruiser pilots swapped down to similarly-sized stuff, and we charged.

Once again, our combat discipline was pretty solid. The Amarr targeted our fleet commanders almost immediately, so others had to step up and maintain order — our armor fleet ran through at least five target callers throughout the fight. Despite our numerical advantage on this fight, the absence of support ships and warping into the complex right at our opponents’ ideal ranges meant we were struggling at the outset, and (again) it wasn’t clear who would hold the field.

And of course I got blapped off the field pretty quick.

Again, at least two of our pilots had time to lose a ship, deaggress, jump back to our staging system, reship, return, and finish the fight. LONG fight.

In fact, I feel I should say this: kudos to the Amarr pilots for really grinding it out to the bitter end. I’m positive that they could have called the fight a lot sooner and got more of their pilots away, but they chose to buckle down and go down swinging — it made for a hell of a good fight, and a great ‘coming back after a long month’ night.

Salutes all around, you filthy slavers.

Life in Eve: Getting a Bad Feeling

So this is just a short post and, worse, it won’t make much sense or difference to anyone unless you both play EvE and do stuff in Faction Warfare.

So here we go.

Fact one: The Amarr-Minmatar warzone is getting some new jump gates in December, meant to open up a lot of cut off systems and improve moment throughout the warzone.

Fact two: Despite the fact that it’s currently a pain in the ass to offensively run complexes in enemy systems, the Amarr are hitting a couple Minmatar systems pretty damned hard, as if they would very much like to flip them to Amarr. I wonder why?

Let’s go to the map!

Click to embiggen

Orange is current Amarr territory. The green lines are where the new gates are going to go. The systems circled in black are the ones the Amarr are hitting hard.

I’ll let you chew that over.

Home a-Roam 4

The next few evenings are spent battening down the hatches for the upcoming November privations, resetting Planetary Interaction timers, and building a few Condors for a roam JR wants to try out.

Well, that and a bit of solo fun, which included a new Cormorant I’m trying out that managed to net me a few kills on its first flight. Definitely need to take that crazy looking ship out more in the future.

One dark spot on this solo flight was that I tried taking out a minor complex in enemy held territory, and found it entirely not worth the time. With only about half the changes to complexes currently in place, the massive fountain of ISK-production has been shut down — which is a good thing — at the cost of the sites being worth doing at all. That’s fine, though: I’ll take the benefits even if it means a month of avoiding plexes until the rest of the changes go in.

But enough about that — I’ve got Condors to build for a skirmish fleet!


There’s something fun and liberating about flying incredibly cheap ships that can hit targets from over fifty kilometers away, fly 4000 meters a second, and chase down pretty much anything. Adding to the fun of this roam is the fact that Em and Shan are coming along on one of JR’s roams for the first time (Em in a custom Condor that matches his very deep missile skills, Shan in a Vigil with several target painters, because he’s Minmatar to the bone).

We don’t find any ‘big’ fights, but that’s fine for our group, which is happier mauling and taking down smaller groups of larger game. The Condor is (now) a wonderfully versatile frigate, and we have a number of ship variations that leave our targets all but helpless to harm us, and our losses are few and far between.

Not so the enemy, as we rack up kills on an Arbitrator cruiser, Retribution assault frigate, Punisher frigate, a Daredevil pirate frigate fit with entirely too many expensive modules that did him no good at all and, finally, a Rifter and Rupture out shooting NPCs in asteroid belts. It was a fine conclusion to the evening, so JR calls it for the night and we head home.

Or so I thought.

“Okay guys, I’m going to head o– oh, there’s a Pilgrim on this gate.”

“He cloaked.”

“Can someone decloak — hey! We decloaked him!”

“Eh, he’s just going to jump the gate. He’s won’t aggress anyo–:

“He’s aggressing!”

“Everyone warp to JR. Everyone warp to JR.”

The fight took well over five minutes, partly due to the Force Recon Cruiser’s tanking ability and partly because we had to work through most of his drones first (and in two cases, reship in mid fight), but eventually we took the ship down, netting us a great tech-2 cruiser kill to cap off the night, as well as — effectively — the month of October.

And how has that month been going?

Not bad! Em, Dirk, and Shan have jumped into the pool, and last night our little corporation broke 100 kills since joining the war against the evil Amarr slave lords. Our win-to-loss ratio corp-wide is better than I’d expected at this point in our learning curve, but far more importantly, not a single kill on the board is any kind of structure. I’m very happy about that — it simplifies the issue a bit, but it’s still a good indicator that I’m getting what I wanted out of this experiment.

Why the retrospective?

Per usual, my free time during November will be pretty sparse, and what I have will be mostly dedicated to family and friends close at hand. Now is the time on EvE when we schedule a lot of long, slow, annoying skill trains that I’ve been putting off. I can’t complain about how October concluded, and I comfort myself with the thought that I’ll come out on the other end of November with a sexy new expansion only days away. I’m sure I’ll post a few things here and there (perhaps stories of the corp’s adventures while I’m MIA), but for the most part all I can say is good hunting, and I’ll see you soon.

Life in Eve: Home a-Roam 3

I’d intended to just pop in and check a few bits of to-do, but a quick greeting in comms leads to an invite into an ongoing fleet lead by several pilots I don’t know, but flown in by several I do.

“Who’s the new guy in my channel?” asks the FC. “Try?”

“It’s Ty,” one of the other pilots replies, before I can speak up. “He’s got his own corp, but he flies with us a lot. He’s good.”

“Cool.”

And that was that.

Not bad.

The doctrine for the fleet was “cruisers, with some fast tackle support.” Normally, I’d bring tackle in that situation, but I was informed we already had plenty before I’d even proposed it, which left me looking over my cruiser options of which I had only a few, handy.

The problem with cruisers right now (at least for me) is that they’re all going to get quite good in a little more than a month, so unless I know the ship in question is already about as good as it’s going to get, I’m loathe to fly it right now. I don’t mind losing ships (at all), but it bothers me to lose them simply because they aren’t currently good and would have survived if I’d just waited a few weeks. All those kinds of ships are waiting for me (and December) in a market system hangar.

The only ships immediately handy include a Rupture and two Stabber Fleet Issues. The Rupture is currently set up for a weird remote-rep fit that I’ve somehow managed not to lose (and which is useless for the current roam), so I discount that. The SFI’s are another story, as they are both (a) good ships and (b) not getting tweaked next month. The first of the two is a soloing-fit that wouldn’t fare well against the damage a decent sized fleet would attract, so I settle on the second ship, much slower, but heavily tanked and ideal for survival in the face of withering incoming fire.

We wander the war zone for a while, but pickings are slim and what few ships we do snag are far too fast for my sleek, aerodynamic brick to chase down.

Finally (and, again, just like the previous two outings), we find ourselves near home, where most of the action has been happening lately. Scouts report a few ships locally, but in a complex too small to admit our cruisers. The FC glumly advises people to reship and hurry back. I speak up.

“I have lots of destroyers right here in system.”

“How many?”

“At… least six.”

With guns?”

“Of course.”

“… okay! New plan! Everyone send Ty some money and dock up at his station. We’re going to steal his shit and kill some ships.”

A few ISK transfers later and we’re in warp to the complex in a fleet of Thrashers with suspiciously similar names. The targets warp away as we enter, and our rear guard reports enemies landing back at the entrance gate to the complex.

We can’t warp directly back to the gate (one of the ‘features’ of a complex), so the FC orders us to ‘bounce’ out to an orbit around the sun, then back to the complex entrance. Imagine our surprise when we land on the sun and see an entirely different fleet waiting for us. They aren’t war targets, but they seem perfectly willing to engage anyway, so let’s call them nascent pirates.

This fight goes well — we take out all their fleet, but the war targets that had been at the complex warp in and complicate matters, turning the whole thing into a grand melee. Pretty much everyone loses their shiny new destroyers, but the fight was a good one all around, and a fine way to end the evening.

Life in Eve: Home a-Roam 2

Friday’s a strangely quiet night in the war zone, so I spent some time working out some new fittings for Caldari assault ships and interceptors. I don’t get too far into this this, though, because some of the pilots I know are roaming around the zone and invite me along. I don’t know what I should bring, exactly, so I settle on the condor I’d cobbled together the night before.

As before, we really didn’t need to travel far to find trouble. I’d only just reshipped and got on comms when word came of war targets right next door. A bit more recon showed us two destroyers in a major Minmatar complex, backed up by a shiny Vigilant-class cruiser, rare enough in the faction warfare scene that most of our pilots (many of whom are fairly new) were unfamiliar with the ship’s advantages in camping a warp-in gate.

Despite the Vigilant, our FC (who, though he has faults, doesn’t number timidity among them) decided he wanted to go after the fight anyway, figuring to storm the complex and trust to our many tech1 frigates to blot out the proverbial sun… or at least overwhelm the Vigilant’s target system.

“He can’t lock down all of us.”

Our arrival was spotted, and all the ships bugged out as we entered the complex, but we waited, hoping they’d calm down and come back once they realized we weren’t the vanguard of a larger force.

They did, and at least initially didn’t hit us with any more ridiculously superior ships than they already had (those came later): the same two destroyers dropped back in with two more destroyer allies and the Vigilant.

Not Almity,” I called out on comms, before the FC could designate targets, remembering the mistakes made in the last week, calling him primary. “Anyone but Almity.”

The FC took it in stride, called other targets, and had everyone hit the Vigilant with tracking disruptors and hope for the best.

The fight was nasty, brutish, and relatively short — common for frigate brawls — two of the destroyers went down, then our own frigates started to pay the price of facing far superior firepower. Despite the disruptors, the Vigilant was nearly one-shotting our ships, and the pilots we’d already unhorsed had warped off and were already returning… this time in an SFI and Cynabal cruiser. Time to leave.

No arguments from me, as a single shot from the Vigilant stripped my shields, armor, and melted half the ship’s structure. I left the field trailing fire and smoke but (again) basically functional.

We couldn’t have been said to have come out ahead for the fight, but to be honest the engagement was so fun no one really seemed to care. Since we’d barely left our home system, reshipping and repair for those pilots willing to stick around took little time, and before long our somewhat smaller fleet was back in space and poking around, which led in a fairly short order to another engagement with the surviving two destroyers from the previous tussle, this time without the support of a couple quarter-million-isk pirate cruisers.

It went about how you’d expect, and brought my unlikely Condor up to an unprecedented three-battle survival rate.

Life in Eve: Home a-Roam

These days, we hardly need to go anywhere to find a fight. Immediately next door, we have a long-established I.LAW Amarr corporation that seems (at least to me – not everyone agrees) predisposed to relatively even fights. One more jump and you’re into the home staging system for Fweddit, which… has a lot of pilots. The same distance in the opposite direction (figuratively as well as literally) you’ll find the Agony Unleashed, full of pilots for whom I have tremendous respect, and if all else fails there’s notorious Amamake, filled to overflowing with pirate gangs.

None of that’s to say that you’ll always find the fight you’re looking for — it’s currently kind of rough running around solo, because the half-complete changes to complexes discourage pilots from clearing them on their own — but if you can find the pitch that the war zone is tuned to at the moment, things can be pretty cool.

Don't get me wrong - it can also be kind of brutal.

Thursday, JR ran up a flag for pilots interested in a remote-repair armor gang — a concept that’s only marginally workable at present but likely to be very effective in December — the ship’s are cheap(ish) so it’s good training for when the tactic becomes (much) more effective.

We ran around for a very short roam (all of two system gates, I think) before JR got word of a nearby allied fleet trying to scare up a fight with Fweddit nearby. It seemed likely that either of our groups would be outmanned or outshipped by our opponents, but together…

We reformed as a single fleet and… well, all I’ll say is that we got a fight. Not convinced it was the fight we wanted, exactly, but it was certainly a fight. In short, the other side outnumbered and outshipped us, despite our Voltron maneuver. Also, there is a regrettable tendency to call the most recognizable enemy fleet commanders primary. I’ve made the same mistake, which is why I spotted it now, and the fact that some of those pilots recognize this and play to it by making themselves particularly easy-to-reach targets in particularly hard-to-kill ships.

So we kind of wasted a whole lot of time killing one or two guys who were set up to take the pounding, while the other guys took us apart at their leisure.

Once this fight was done (my ship survived — not sure how that happened), there was a long delay while JR and the other fleet’s commander talked, and by the time it was done, most everyone was done waiting around and had taken off for the night. One pilot had tracked a group of war targets who were banging around in frigates and looking for a fight, however. We had five or six pilots still willing to fly, and dropped on them in orbit around a planet in similarly-sized ships.

Both sides were looking for a good fight, but the game itself was set to deny us — something was seriously wrong with the local ‘grid’ — it was so small that my Condor was actually running off grid from my target by simply orbiting him. Neither side could accomplish anything, so we disengaged and retreated.

By this point, however, all sides were feeling a little denied, so we basically agreed on a place to meet up and conclude our fight. This went pretty well for us, as we were able to take out all five of their ships, with two of ours still on the field (mine included, albeit ever-so-slightly on fire). Good fights all around, and we called it a night.

Life in Eve: Shake Shake Shake

It will surprise no one when I say that I’m not happy with the way some of the features in Faction Warfare in Eve work, and I’m looking forward to fixes proposed for December.

Soon.

Most of dissatisfaction stems from the ways in which the system can be gamed for the sole purpose of making ISK.

Now, I don’t have any problem with people making ISK. I don’t have a problem with someone playing smart, or avoiding a senseless fight. I do have a problem with people who are clearly subverting a system. Take a new-player-friendly theater of activity called “faction warfare”, set in “war zones”, and tell me that the most common “new” players involved are ignoring all fights and fitting their ships to avoid all consequences of any activity they undertake in that theater, and I’ll call those people bad names.

They’re not being innovative or ’emergent’ any more than a lamprey is an “outside the box thinker”. They’re just parasites, dragging down another fish.

Yes, I’ve tried to kill such pilots when I can. This also should surprise no one. As a rule, people don’t view tapeworms as a life-enhancing feature.

So I was thrilled to find out that some of the Faction Warfare changes proposed for the December expansion were going to be implemented immediately, in an effort to kill off the worst of the demonstrably game-breaking behavior. If nothing else, it closed a hemorrhaging ISK faucet six weeks early, and that alone is worth it.

But there were other benefits.

Although not all the changes are in place, enough things changed in terms of system control and defensive and offensive “plexing” that it shook things up around the war zone. There were a lot more pilots flying around, a lot more fights happening, a lot more investment. I spotted the first Infrastructure Hub bashing fleet I’ve seen in, literally, months. Then another. Then response fleets. Then pirate fleets looking to start a fight with those fleets. It’s easily the busiest I’ve seen the war zone in weeks, and that’s with one of the largest enemy corporations in the area temporarily out of the action while they repaint Amarr logos over top the Caldari flare on their ships.

There’s something to be said for changes to a system that alter the rules about what’s good/bad, useful/useless behavior in a given theatre of activity in the game. The changes get people whining, but it also promotes a heightening level of participation and activity as people figure things out, take initial advantage, figure out optimal behaviors, implement them, and adapt to the meta-game shifting as a result.

It’s a good argument for regular in-game events that shake things up simply for the sake of the shaking. Something as simple as Incursions actually spawning inside the war zone would throw a deep wrinkle into things, as would adding (or destroying) routes through the war zones.

I’m not saying change stuff just to change it, but if you can come up with cool reasons for tweaking the equations of success from time to time, it wakes people up.

Keep things moving to keep people interested.

I do a bit of defensive plexing at the start of the evening, to (a) get a sense of how the new loyalty point rewards for this activity will stack up in vulnerable systems (answer: well) and (b) try to move some vulnerable systems back toward stability before the Amarr can flip them to slaver-sovereignty.

JR is doing a “cheapfleet” roam of frigates and destroyers, and I hop into a Thrasher to join in, since (at least initially) I don’t much feel like being an important cog in the machine — mine will be the way of support and heavier DPS, not scouting and (thus) nigh second-in-command.

As he’s done in the past, JR splits the fleet into two squads and two separate but linked voice comms channels, so we can roam independently in smaller, less-threatening groups, but call for backup if needed. He then puts newer pilots in as squad commands and eases himself into the back seat to let the training-by-fire commence.

My body is ready.

Squad 2 (of which I am a member) wanders somewhat, our FC seeming a bit a sea and unmotivated. The upside: Fel is with us (since I dragged him along) and getting some scouting practice, as he’s in the fastest ship in our squad — a speedy Atron attack frigate.

Our roam takes us by secondary routes to the system of Sahtogas. We send in Fel to scout and wait at the entry gate, directing him toward any open complexes, hoping to attract the attention of the fairly numerous war targets in system (who are often more inclined to doze inside stations until prodded).

Meanwhile, a war target drops on our gate and most of us open fire. I don’t, because I suspect he’s going to jump through the gate if things look serious. They do, and he does. I follow.

… and appear in the midst of a significantly larger fleet than my own, all war targets and all heading through the same gate but in the other direction to go after our guys. They apparently slipped down to the gate after Fel warped away. I try to give warning, but it comes too late for some and we lose a couple ships.

Meanwhile, Squad One is coming at Sahtogas from another direction, and tries to bait the same group of war targets into attacking. This works, but (again) the enemy fleet proves too strong for only half our group to manage, and we trade ships at a slightly disappointing 2:1 ratio.

With several pilots reshipping, the rest of us scattered, and our squad commander unaccountably silent, I announce I’m heading back to our original mustering system, where it will be easier for our returning pilots to link up. This initiative puts me in the lead and scouting ahead for the rest of the squad.

One jump short of our muster point (but conveniently near my home station) I spot a Naga battlecruiser in one of our local complexes. A quick reconnoiter puts him 190 klicks off the complex entry and (annoyingly) still able to shoot me, so I switch out of my Thrasher and into a Taranis interceptor to see if I can snag him.

No joy, as he runs when I start to close in, but our activity attracts the attention of a small gang of pirates from nearby, notorious Amamake. Again, I switch ships, this time to a Stabber Fleet Issue — the Minmatar Navy’s justifiably well-regarded “SFI” cruiser.

The pirates, having taken out one of our frigates, retreat to Amamake, but a scout locates them near planet six and I warp to their location, clearly looking for payback for the loss of our frigate (rageface). They seem inclined to take the fight, as their three assault frigates (two Wolves, one Hawk) look to be more than enough for the job I represent. The Hawk gets in too close to me, however, and with two webifiers and a warp scrambler on him, he’s not going to be able to correct that error. I call the rest of the fleet in and the Hawk dies fairly quickly, while his allies scatter.

We try for one of the Wolves, but our chosen target it too fast — only one ship (Fel’s Atron) can keep up with him, and can’t slow the Wolf down enough for anyone else to catch up — he finally manages to slingshot Fel and slip away.

JR is... shall we say... nonplussed by the fact that only one of our small ships has bothered to fit a microwarpdrive, even though he specifically said everyone should have one.

I try to pull another fight in Amamake while the rest of the fleet slips back to neighboring systems, but the pirates jump in after them before anything else develops. This works out, as we’re able to snag and kill the Wolf who had previously escaped.

I drop back to repair the SFI, and scouts report another group on the gate in Amamake, so I head back in to try to make something happen. I can’t track them down, but that proves to be wasted effort: I drop on them accidentally after giving up my search and warping back to the out-gate. Pirate pilots in an Atron frigate, Jaguar assault frigate, Rupture cruiser, and Zealot heavy assault cruiser circle me, but none seem eager to engage, since it will mean that the mean, nasty pirates will be targeted by the stargate’s defensive sentries for attacking a squeaky-clean citizen like myself.

With my backup ready, I start things off by popping the Atron, then we all turn attention to the Rupture, who tears away and leads us well off the gate before we pull him down and take out the ship. The kill takes some time, however, and by then he has backup inbound. They manage to catch me as the Rupture… ruptures, and my heroic SFI goes down while the rest of the fleet escapes. (Luckily, I have a dozen replacements at the ready, and more reasons than ever to fly them. Great ship.)

The fleet swaps around ships a bit, and Matt calls us into an enemy-held system nearby, where we miss a Firetail frigate but catch and kill yet another Wolf, trading a Taranis to a Cynabal cruiser in the process, at which point JR takes off for the night, and I follow suit.

A good night, if a bit directionless and disorganized at the start — it felt good to head out into the war zone and actually find pilots looking for a fight.

Life in Eve: Notebook

My notes from last night, unadorned:

Roam with CB, Em, and Shan. CB in a slicer doing most of the scouting, plex checking, and war target tackling. In his words, ‘barn storming’, which he liked. Shan did a bit too, but his Slasher was using was more for brawls and offensive plexing, not fast tackle. My Vengeance wasn’t useful; the target I hoped for didn’t show, and it’s so godawful slow.

Basically just tried to get everyone out there and scouting, so we all get more used to it. Went smoothly (better than Tuesday), though no kills. (CB points out: no losses either.)

Several ships tackled/hassled, but everyone either rabbited before we got to them or warped out after we had tackle, thanks to warp stabs. Jade: “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Think he’s starting to see my frustration.

After the guys took off for the night, hopped in a Slasher and played scout for JR’s roam, back from null-sec and cruising around the war zone. Snagged a Vexor right away, and took another hour doing a loop south and losing a Vengeance (ironic) to a Harbinger bait trap with five other battlecruisers waiting in the wings.

Life in Eve: For the Tears?

Forgive me, Gor, but this one was too good to leave in e-mail.

Wait… so choosing be smart in Eve and only engage in fights that you can win or walk away from is a bad thing? Eve PVP is so much about the tears…. If all these Eve players want less risk adverse behavior, decrease the (ship) death penalty.  Oh but then PVP wouldn’t be so much fun, cause I didn’t ruin the other guys day.

I don’t mind someone being careful, but when you get together to spend an evening shooting other people and the guy in charge won’t take a fight — ANY fight — because it doesn’t look like a sure win? That guy just wasted my night, because I want to shoot something — that’s what I set aside my night to do. I wouldn’t have undocked if I didn’t accept some risk, and if I didn’t want the risk, I’d play Wizard101.

The guys that piss me off in the war zone are the guys who are ostensibly part of faction warfare, but who fly around in frigates with no guns on and a ship optimized to make money and ignore the actual war. That bugs the crap out of me, and I make it a hobby to blow them up when I can.

It's really not about the tears.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t do it for the tears — I very much doubt there are any, because that guy probably make 4 or 5 billion isk in the last week — I do it because these guys are crapping all over the area of the game I’m playing in, and I have the means to kick some sand in their face, which I want to do because this particular activity in Eve — for which I have sacrificed time, ISK, and the companionship of good friends who’d rather not join me — is being ruined by these greedy little stains.

Do I do this to miners in high-sec? Or industrialists? Or traders? Of course not! They’re doing what they do; they’re not subverting anything. That guy in the hookbill is turning an arena for a certain kind of play into a lame money-dispenser — paved the park and put up a Qwik-e-mart — and I look on it the same way I look on guys who can-flip and ninja-salvage in high-sec: I’ll kill ’em if I can.

This is tangential, but I don’t think they should decrease the death penalty to allay risk adverse behavior, because honestly the main thing that makes EvE fights exciting (they aren’t, normally) is the risk to your OWN ship). These guys that pussyfoot around, trying for a perfect 100-0 record… it just seems to me that they miss the point. The whole thing is more fun if you have some skin in the game.

No, I don’t care about causing tears, but I do care about caring about the fight. If four guys want to use some ECM so their four frigates can take on a Cynabal and have a chance of winning, fine. I can even stand to be one of those guys, because I don’t see that we’ve negated risk and made the whole fight pointless. If fourteen guys bring two Falcons on every roam and only take on groups of 8 or fewer pilots so they can guarantee none of their opponents can fight back… yeah. No. I get why they’re playing, but that’s no more “my” version of Eve than 1% margin trading in Jita.

I just can't see how it's fun.

I’m not going to suicide into a fight for no purpose — but (for example) I stayed in the fight a few nights ago because I thought we could pull out a win, or at least a draw, and that (plus the adrenaline) was worth it.

An hour after I killed that Hookbill pilot, this happened — and I was just as happy about it, because I actually found someone in a complex who wanted to fight.

These days, that’s like finding the only other guy at a gaming convention who actually came to play.

Life in Eve: Education

Last night, our little two-man faction warfare corporation tripled in size, and I led a small roam/introductory tour into the wilds of the war zone. Four pilots (myself, Em, Shan, and newly-recruited Fel) flying the very best in cheap and disposable combat spacecraft (an Incursus, Atron, and two Slashers).

Preparatory documents, FAQs, links, and useful maps had all been assembled and then sent out. Shopping had been done (including a splurge on a pile of inexplicably under-priced frigates that netted use close to two-hundred slashers). Questions had been asked and answered.

Nothing left to do but head out and learn to explode.

I had a path in mind, and sent us at best speed through Sinq Laison to Audaerne and, from there, into the Eugidi constellation, which is a kind of rat’s nest of systems well behind the front lines, popular with risk-adverse war targets and (by contrast) conflict-hungry pirates looking for a fight. All in all, it’s a pretty good group of systems to visit if you want to familiarize yourself with the ‘plex mechanics, possibly catch a fleeing enemy, and maybe even get something like an viable fight.

Emphasis on maybe. As it turned out, once we chased off a few timid Merlin frigates with Cynabal backup, the only action to be found lay with a trio of pirates I’d run into in the past. They decided to meet our four frigates with three destroyers (and more backup lurking in the wings); we decided the fight wasn’t for us. In leaving the constellation, we managed to draw one far enough away from his friends to cost him any nearby backup, but he remained wary enough to escape through a gate jump without losing his Thrasher. Ahh well.

From there, we headed south toward Dal, pausing here and there to check out likely-looking complexes for enemies, but arrived at our destination without anything exciting coming of it and docked up for a few minutes to rub our eyes and repair a bit of damage from overheated afterburners.

I returned after the brief break feeling more than a little restless. It’s been well over a week since I’ve had a proper fight (the last roam I was on had me sitting in a support cruiser, which is fun but doesn’t involve much in the way of direct violence), and after two hours of cat-and-mouse work with no payout, I just wanted a face to shoot.

“We’re going to jump over to Siseide,” I said, naming a neighboring system with a lot of violent activity showing on the map, and a known home system for a few Amarr loyalists. “See if we can’t stir something up.”

The system’s population was a weird mix of Minmatar and Amarr forces when we arrived, but as I split us into smaller groups to scout around (as I had been doing all night, to give everyone a turn at hanging their ass out in the wind to get shot at), most of our nominal allies departed toward Auga.

Em headed for one of the open Amarr complexes, I went for the minor one on the far side of the system, and landed nearly on top of a Slasher like my own, who immediately jumped the gate into the complex and invited me to follow him in. I called my fleet mates to me and charged in, but he saw my backup arriving and beat a retreat.

Once the other three had arrived, I had Shan start capturing the complex. This wasn’t a wholly empty activity; Siseide was the first system we’d entered all night that was actually held by the Amarr, so it was our first chance to actually capture an enemy complex, as opposed to defend our own, and I wanted them to get a sense of what that was like.

In any case, we didn’t stick with that for long, as it was clear the locals (all veteran members of a long-running faction warfare corporation) were putting together a response to our intrusion. The first to land on the gate and jump in was a Thrasher, but his friends seemed further behind, and I thought the odds were good that if we hit him hard when he entered, we could take his ship before the rest arrived.

My nebulous plan solidified when I realized the lead pilot it was Almity, one of the better known fleet commanders for the Amarr.

Things seemed to be going well, despite Em and Shan calling out enemy ships closing in: the enemy thrasher’s shields were dropping with comforting speed, and the heavy hitting but traditionally thinly-tanked ship looked close to death.

Then we punched through to the ship’s armor, and all progress just… stopped.

“Armor tanked?” I wondered aloud. “Who armor tanks a Thrasher?”

The answer, apparently, is “Well-known enemy fleet commanders who expect to be called primary and use that tendency to act as effective bait.”

Four other Amarr pilots landed on us while we tried to take the Thrasher out. I should have called an evacuation (I was the only one held at that point), but I wanted at least one kill, even leavened with our own ship losses, and kept us in the fight long enough for Almity’s companions to catch hold of both Shan and Em as well.

All in all it was a fine, tasty bait they set for us, and I bit with everything I had. Lesson learned, and well-played by the Amarr pilots. Hats off.

“I missed the whole thing!” moaned one of the Amarr pilots in local comms.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get another chance,” I quipped.

“I hope so, man,” he replied. “They say you were actually fit for PvP and willing to fight. Good show!”

We retreated and reshipped (I’ve got several dozen appropriate ships scattered around the the area), but by then it was getting more than a little late, so we called it for the night, with plans for more shenanigans in the days to come.

Maybe not the auspicious beginning I might have hoped for (not helped by the fact that my decision-making was colored my just wanting any kind of fight — the whole thing left me happy with the results even though we lost), but a start nonetheless and with lots of things to learn from the engagement.

Early this morning, Agony pilots came swarming through the system while I fiddled with a few ships in the hangar, and one of their pilots (whom I know from various roams and training classes) tossed me a greeting.

“I heard you decided to put up a decent fight last night, instead of running,” she said. “Very cool.”

“Thanks,” I said, and meant it — enemies they may be, but it’s nice to earn a little recognition, even if it’s for blowing up. Funny, though, that the news of an inconsequential frigate brawl spread even that far.

How sad is it that the simple act of taking a fight with no gimmicks and no bullshit is cause for comment, compliment, and small celebration (twice!) by your opponents, though you sit in the midst of zone focused on war, and a game focused on PvP? It makes me understand Rote Kapelle’s current goal.

Life in Eve: Prep

“Alright, Fel, if you feel like you understand the risks, and you’re still interested, I’m glad to have you.” I punched the virtual ACCEPT? button on my terminal and sat back in the chair in my quarters.

There was no reply from the overhead speakers to which I’d routed the caller’s voice.

I waited, then: “Fel?”

“Umm. Yes. Sorry. I’m here.” I could almost hear the other pilot shake himself. “I just… well, not to raise too many alarm bells or anything, but I’m a bit surprised you accepted me so soo — umm. Quickly.”

“Ahh.” I thought about that a moment, letting my eyes drop to my hands, resting in my lap. “You know what CB said when I told him about your original message asking to join?”

“The first one? That was months ago.”

“Yup.” I cleared my throat, wanting to get the phrasing right. “He said: ‘If he wants in the wormhole, fuck no. If he wants in the war zone, fuck it.'” More comms silence. “Don’t take that personally…”

Fel’s laughter came with a rush. “Are you kidding? I’m from a wormhole too — paranoia, I understand; I practically tell the new pilots to fly in front of me when we go on ops.”

I chuckled along with him, nodding. “Well, that’s half of it, then. The other half… ” I shrugged. “There’s maybe three hundred million isk worth of ships and ship modules in our shared hangars. I only keep enough liquid ISK around to ensure that the station rental bills are paid automatically –” I cleared my throat — “after a little mishap a few months back.”

“Sure –”

“Point is,” I interrupted, “you really can’t do much harm down here in known space, because this corp’s got no real assets to steal. Hell, even if you awox one of us for fun, we’re only going to be out a cheap clone and a cheaper frigate. And frankly we could use another couple good pilots. Paranoia is fine, but new blood helps keep people awake.”

“Well… okay then.”

“Okay then,” I repeated, letting a small smile creep into place. “Get some rack time. Odds are we’ll be roaming tomorrow night, either with friends in cheap ships or acquaintances in expensive ones. Welcome to the asylum.”

“Glad to be here,” he replied, then cut comms.

I stared at the overhead speaker for a few seconds, my thoughts drifting, then popped up to a standing position, stretching one arm across my chest and rolling my neck on my shoulders as I walked out to the balcony overlooking the hangars. “No breaks today.” I blinked. “Tonight. Whatever.” My eyes itched, and I rubbed at them while I tapped the commands that would swing the Malediction into the launch bay. “Little more scouting to do before everyone gets here.”

I’d been out of a ship for almost a week — visiting the University of Caille to talk about, of all things, my writing — apparently, as a combat pilot, I made a decent journalist. Since I’d gotten back, I’d done little more than scout new safes throughout the war zone and write a half-dozen briefings on the key systems and hot spots that a new pilot — or at least a pilot unfamiliar with the War — would want to know about.

I was itching for some actual combat, even a frustrating loss, but war targets would go unmolested tonight, at least by me; we had new pilots coming to join us, and I wanted everything as smooth as I could get it for the transition.

New pilots for the war. Old friends for the fleet.

“Aura, set course for Avenod. Let’s map out some safes in the Eugidi cluster.”

… before everyone gets here.

My voice sounded tired, even to me, but I could feel that same small smile creep back onto my face.

I practically jogged to the piloting pod.

 

Life in Eve: the Pants-on-Head Offensive #eveonline

While I’ve been playing just as much as ever, and writing about the new stuff coming in the expansion, I haven’t felt compelled to write about actual events in game for a little while, simply because it’s been pretty typical and straightforward shenanigans: small gang stuff every few nights, random solo stuff the rest of the time. Faction Warfare is a very interesting and sometimes frustrating environment; on one hand I feel as though I’d get more out of it if I were connected to some of the big established groups, but on the other hand there’s direct evidence that Sturgeon’s Revelation applies just as much to people as it does to anything else1, and I’m not sure I need to expose myself to that any more than I already am.2

Case in Point:

I went on a small gang roam last night, run by one of the really good guys I’ve run into — someone who’s a real pleasure to fly with and who always seems to have a fun fleet idea to try out.

Flying with him: a couple of his corp mates, and a cage of shit-flinging spider monkeys.

WTF am I hearing?

Now, normally, it’s not that bad. The fleet members list was about the same as usual, but for whatever reason — full moon, hormone imbalance, Ritalin shortage — this ancillary group of pilots (from a corp unaffiliated with the FC) have been particularly sub-functional lately.

But I grit my teeth and bear it, because I want to try out this new idea the FC has. The last few roams, he’s been asking for armor-tanked cruisers supported by a couple tech1 logistics ships (the exequror, which is currently a hairsbreadth above a joke setup, but receives a major facelift in a few months), and specifically asked if I could bring one of the support cruisers, which is a class of ship I’m well-skilled for and never really get a chance to fly.

Anyway: the evening didn’t offer up a lot of viable opportunities. The nature of the ships we were flying (support cruisers with poor attributes, combat cruisers press-ganged into remote-repair setups) and our numbers (ranging from 6 to, at best, 10 or so) meant that our window of viable targets was a bit narrow — potential opponents either warped away before we could get there, or seriously outnumbered us.

Still, we preserved, roaming around the war zone, looking for anything that would give us a good run.

(Side note: the tunnel vision that overcomes “healers” in any group activity is just as present in EvE as it is in any other MMO, at least in my experience. I couldn’t name one system we flew through last night, aside from where we started and where we ended.)

After a slow hour or so, people were justifiably itching for a fight, and everyone was pretty happy when a scout (one of our spider-monkeys) excitedly announced he had a war target tackled. The current fleet commander called for jump and we warped to the fight.

Imagine my bemusement when the overview loaded, and all I saw were two different shades of purple on the list of nearby pilots: the purple of my fleetmates, and the purple of fellow members of my militia.

The scout (also a militia member) was shooting one of the pilots in that second group.

We're going to war!

Apparently, the spider monkeys had had some kind of friendly fire incident a few days earlier, resulting in a pilot from some other militia corporation losing a ship. Reparations were made, but in the end, the two corps decided to use the in-game system to declare war on each other, thus making each other valid war targets.

Let me repeat that (because I for damn sure needed it explained twice when I first heard it): faced with two different enemy militia to fight (whose pilot memberships collectively numbers a bit over fifteen thousand), these two groups within the same militia decided to start shooting each other over a 10 second friendly fire incident, some name-calling, and the loss of a single frigate.

I really don’t think that is how one successfully conducts a war.

Please note the remarkable lack of SHOOTING EACH OTHER in the above photo.

Faced with this situation, I did what I’m supposed to do in a support ship, surrounded by friendly pilots taking fire: I locked up every ally I could and started repping anyone getting shot.

Yes, everyone.

Yes, the “other guys” too.

I figure we were already well into the realm of Pants-on-Head idiocy, so adding a little more ridiculous behavior could hardly hurt.3

Eventually, someone decided to shoot me. I’m honestly not sure which side. Maybe both.

Upside: I got a lot of good practice flying support, and the ship loss was amusingly cheap.

And, not for nothing, having an excuse to drop fleet afterwards (when the FC called it a night) was something of a blessed release.


1 – There’s also a disturbing trend wherein the forces behind Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory manifest at such a high concentration in EvE that intelligent, well-spoken people who seem immune to this phenomena (while on Reddit, for example) turn into mouth-breathing frat boys the moment they log into the game and join a fleet. I’m embarrassed on their behalf.

2 – One of the nice things about wormholes? You are generally insulated from the 90%, except in small doses. Call that a plus. In faction warfare, I keep my local channel set so I only see who’s in the system (not anything anyone’s actually saying), and make liberal use of the ‘block’ chat function make other channels marginally useful.

3 – It’s easy to poke fun, but you must be careful when casting stones; stuff easily as stupid happens with head-shaking frequency throughout the game. Usually, the result is a lot more costly (which either makes it more or less funny, depending on who you ask.)

Life in Eve: A Tour of the Bringing Solo Back Interview with CCP Fozzie #eveonline

I’m often on voice comms while playing Eve, and a lot of the discussion lately has been about the changes coming in the winter expansion.

One of the things I often bring up is the interview that CCP Fozzie did on the Bringing Solo Back podcast (Kil2 and Kovorix), but that gets kind of frustrating. I’ll quote something interesting that Fozzie said, then someone says “where did you hear that?”, I mention the podcast, and no one knows about it.

SO: if you are interested, you can find the podcast over here , but as it’s fairly long (~90 minutes), I’ve provided a bit of a road map to the bits I thought were particularly informative.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t have anything to do with the BSB podcast (other than as a devoted listener) — I’m just doing this to spread the word, because I think it’s hugely helpful in providing context about the changes coming in the winter expansion.


7:30 – PROCESS AND PHILOSOPHY OF SHIP REVISION

8:25 – The “training path” of the new support ships, leading to Logistics ships.
10:23 – A bit more on the process of ship revisions.
14:53 – The “flavors” of each race’s ships — “individuality” balanced against “every ship should be useful for something.”
15:55 – “Some of the old ‘racial flavor’ things… kind of suck.”
17:10 – “‘Good fits’ are often kind of similar.” Some talk about differentiating ships in Eve by finding new niches for them, and where that’s still a problem with redundancy (HACs versus tier3 BCs).

21:24 – THE “NEW” FRIGATES

22:51 – The last three combat frigates: kestrel, tristan, breacher.
27:00 – Ewar frigates. (potential change to ECM coming in the expansion)
29:07 – Support (logistics) frigates.

37:15 – DESTROYERS

37:35 – Small tweaks to current destroyers.
39:15 – The history of random silly numbers in various ship stats.
40:00 – The four new destroyers.

40:45 – DRONES
(really sort of a destroyer tangent that went crazy and became its own topic)

40:45 – Some discussion of drones as secondary weapon systems for Gallente and Amarr.
43:05 – The issue with putting missiles – especially short-range missile systems – on slow, heavily armored ships.
44:00 – Relevant Tangent: “Making active armor-tanking not be so slow.”
46:00 – More on drones.

There is SOME implication (46:10 – he doesn’t say it outright – I am INFERRING) that while the Amarr will use drones almost as much as Gallente for secondary damage, and have roomy drone bays, they won’t have the BANDWIDTH of Gallente ships, who will be able to field beefier flights of drones. “I don’t see us pushing heavy drones to Amarr hulls.” Basically it sounds like “Light fast drones go with slow heavy Amarr ships, and bigger heavier drones with the (eventually) faster Gallente ships that can get in close and THEN release drones.”

46:45 – Why drone speed bonuses are a problem.

49:10 – CRUISERS

50:20 – “We really want tech1 ships to be viable and used a lot.”
50:50 – How the relationship between new tech1 frigates and tech2 frigates demonstrates the kind of relationship and ‘gap’ CCP wants to see between all tech1 and tech2 versions of a ship.
52:14 – Attack Cruisers’ new speeds (roughly a 20% increase in speed to the attack cruisers) & what will make Combat Cruisers attractive?

55:00 – AMARR TANGENT

55:05 – “The places Amarr does well right now […] is the battleships, so a lot of those kind of archetypes are the kind of things you’ll see drop down [to smaller ships].”
58:00 – Adjusting beam weapons.

1:00:15 – ANCILLARY SHIELD BOOSTERS

1:00:40 – “ASBs are definitely a balance issue, right now.”
1:02:00 – “Greyscale is a champion for active-tanking (in PvP).”
1:02:50 – “Increasing the kinds of decisions that people can make [in Pvp] is a good thing.”
1:05:25 – Back to ASB discussion.

1:07:00 – OFF-GRID BOOSTERS and TECH3 CRUISERS MAKING COMMAND SHIPS OBSOLETE

1:07:00 – “Hitting [off-grid] boosting with a GIANT baseball bat.”
1:08:15 – “What’s wrong with links, by your evaluation?”
1:10:20 – “The idea with tech3s was always that they should be good generalists; they do a number of those things at the same time, but they shouldn’t be as good as tech2 [ships]. The area where you see that working really well is EWAR. […] That’s where we would like see them when it comes to links.”

1:11:26 – ECM

1:16:25 – HEAVY MISSILE LAUNCHERS and HML TECH2 AMMO

1:18:20 – CALDARI BATTLESHIP-SIZED WEAPONS SYSTEMS

Life in Eve: Retribution is Coming #eveonline

So last night, I actually found myself online at the same time as Em, and we had time to talk about the changes coming up with “Retribution” — the winter expansion. The upshot of that conversation was that a lot of the stuff that I’d categorized as “everybody know this is coming” was stuff that Em hadn’t heard about yet.

So I figured I’d list out pretty much everything I’m aware of that’s coming with Retribution. A few caveats:

  • I’m not going to talk about Crime Watch and the new Bounty system, because not much has been posted about it yet.
  • I’m going to be briefly summarize the changes, but this is still going to be a monster of a post. Can’t be helped: there’s a TON of stuff coming in this expansion.

Now then, let’s get started:


Faction Warfare

  • WAR ZONE CONTROL – War zone control does not currently encourage players to hold space, only to upgrade Infrastructure-hubs when they need to buy stuff from the LP store (upgraded warzone control gives truly massive store discounts for the limited time the upgrade is in place). The upcoming change removes the  discounts, and modifies the amount of loyalty points you earn doing FW stuff instead.They’re also going to make it harder to upgrade and downgrade the control in individual systems within the war zone, which should make whatever tier you’re at more ‘sticky’.There are a number of things they’re putting in to make this happen, but basically offensively taking out offensive complexes won’t ‘bleed’ the stability of a system’s upgrades quite as hard (though it will still pay as well), defensively plexing in a contested system will actually reward you something other than standing, and guys can’t just farm some system that’s been stripped down to a totally vulnerable state for days on end — vulnerable systems will give offensive plex-runners no payout at all.Opinion: Greed is a good motivator. This should encourage factions to actually keep and maintain desirable levels of zone control for the  LP bonus rather than just push to the max level for 40 minutes every couple weeks to ‘cash out’. More zone control effort = more fights. The changes to the loyalty point payouts for offensive, defensive, and vulnerable-system plexing are very good — see the other FW Complex Changes, below.
  • NEW SYSTEM UPGRADES – Current benefits from upgrading a system are a bit lame, especially in systems with no stations. The new iteration will, per level of upgrade in a system, add:
    • More manufacturing, copy, research, and invention slots in stations
    • Reduction in ship repair costs
    • Reduction in market taxes
    • Reduction in manufacturing times (this one is a pretty huge deal)
    • Reduction to starbase fuel cost (only happens twice, at tiers 3 and 5)
    • Able to anchor Cyno Jammer (only at tier 5 control of the system) to prevent getting an enemy capital ship fleet dropped on you. This is a special item and basically takes about 5 or 10 minutes to spool up, and lasts an hour.
  • FW COMPLEX CHANGES – there’s a whole lot of changes to make it harder or outright impossible to ignore PvP in plexes. CCP wants these locations to be a good hot point for fights (anything to change things so every single fight isn’t on a gate or a station is a good thing, in my opinion), and they’re doing a lot of good stuff to make that happen.
    • The ‘capture’ beacon will be moved a lot closer to the entrance to the complex, so attackers don’t have to first traverse 60 to 100 kilometers of empty space to get within range of their target.
    • All beacon capture ranges will be normalized to 30km.
    • Any hostile pilots or hostile NPCs inside the complex will prevent the capture timer from counting down, so if an enemy shows up, you need to kill ’em or drive them off.
    • They’re adding a frigate-only complex, and reorganizing which ships can get into each of the four types of complexes, focusing on restrictions based strictly on size, not tech level of the ships.
    • Since complexes can’t be captured if there are enemy NPCs active in the complex, you need to be able to kill them, though there will be fewer (only one active a time), so you can legitimately do this technically PvE activity with PvP-fit ships. (Also, they don’t spawn if there’s any PvP happening.) Also, the NPCs will be active-tanked to a level appropriate to their ships size, which means that there shouldn’t be any more situations where a frigate is soloing a battlecruiser-class complex.Opinion: All in all, good changes; a hard counter to the no-gun, warp-away, risk-adverse, plex-farming bullshit going on right now.

Mission NPCs (including Faction Warfare NPCs)

All mission NPCs will get upgraded to the “sleeper AI”, modified somewhat. That means that NPCs in all missions will switch targets based on threat (instead of just aggroing the first guy who warps into the site and sticking to him until killed). They will target drones less than Sleepers do and will, if possible, target ships of roughly the same class as themselves, provided such targets exist.

Opinion: The fact that supposedly hardcore EvE players are whining about NPCs finally obeying “threat” code that’s been standard in MMOs for ten years makes me laugh. Harden the fuck up.


Many Ship Changes are Coming

Well over 40 ships are either being revamped, tweaked, or simply created from scratch. Starting from the smallest and working our way up…

Tech1 Exploration Frigates

These ships are, today, basically used as disposable ships for lighting Cynos, and that’s about it. CCP wants to see them in their intended role: solo running of high-sec exploration sites throughout New Eden — a great occupation for newer players — or to support more advanced ships in low-sec, null-sec, or wormhole space. They’re all getting bonuses to hacking, archaeology, and salvaging so you can use them to both probe and run the “mini-profession” sites. Their combat ability has been directed at drones (3 or 4 unbonused light drones) instead of weak weapon bonuses — enough to kill the rats in high-sec sites (although a combat frig will clear them faster) — fit a light active tank, drop drones, and kite.

Opinion: The only downside to these changes is that it makes all four the ships feel sort of… the same. That said, they should be good at what they’re intended to do, and a good way for a new pilot to practice scanning and make some money. Now, if they’d just change the hull for the Imicus — god that’s a stupid-looking ship…


Tech1 EWar Frigates

Since these were formerly “low-tier” frigates, they’re getting pretty significant buffs to make them ‘as good as other frigates’, while focusing on their given role. CCP’s goal is to see these ships become commonly used by newer players to take useful roles in fleets of many different sizes. CCP has also said they expect to release them alongside some tweaks to certain ewar mechanics themselves (for instance, the Griffin getting another mid-slot for yet more ECM, but apparently ECM’s getting tweaked so that it’s going to balance out).

The Crucifier (Amarr) and Vigil (Minmatar) are being bonused towards longer-range disruption, while the Griffin (Caldari) and Maulus (Gallente) are more medium range oriented.  CCP has also said that some EWar was over-nerfed in the past (hello, Gallente) and will be looked at.


Tech1 Support Frigates — Your first “healer” ship

One of the coolest things CCP is doing with this expansion is establish better ‘training’ paths for certain classes of ships — you want to be the support/repair/buff guy? Well, you don’t have to wait two months to finally fly a viable ship! You can start with Support Frigates, move to Support Cruisers, and then to the tech2 Logistics Cruisers that we all know.

Each race will be getting a tech one support frigate, bonused in remote repairing. (10% bonus to repair amount per level, 10% reduction in capacitor draw for reppers per level, and a flat 500% bonus to remote repair module ranges). They’re also giving them more scan resolution across the board, cutting the cycle time of small remote armor and shield reps in half so that these ships can respond more quickly to the fast pace of frigate combat, and reducing the fitting requirements of these modules. These ships have a max rep range of 28.8km with Tech2 rep modules and are generally among the slowest of the tech one frigates.

The Support Frigates are generally created from the ‘mining’ frigates that no one ever uses for anything, ever. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the winter frigate rebalance, since CCP is creating an entirely new role for frigates in a fleet, and hopefully shaking up frigate and other small-gang combat quite a bit.

These ships are, by design, weaker for their size than Tech2 Logistics Ships. This reflects both the lower cost and Skill investment and the design goal that they add to current frigate warfare without eclipsing all the other ships in the lineup.


More Tech1 Combat Frigates

We’ve already seen the changes to the Merlin, Incursus, Rifter (not much change), Punisher, and Tormentor (the mini-Armageddon — a design philosophy in which CCP acknowledges that the Amarr battleships are the best the Amarr has for PvP, so let’s copy those designs in miniature). These last three round out the Combat Frigate lines to 8 ships, two for each race. All three tend to favor long-range combat.

The Kestrel, in contrast to the heavier-tanked, gun-toting Merlin, is the start of the Caldari training path for pure missile damage. It’s going to do good damage with any type of missiles you can fit on it, with great range. It’s also going to be quite a bit more fragile than the new Merlin, though tougher than the older version of itself. It’s also getting a bit faster.

The Tristan is moving away from being a mix of missiles and guns, to being a mix of guns and drones. It will be able to field a full flight of light drones, with almost a full second flight of replacements or utility. It’s guns are bonused for tracking, to deal with the fact that it will probably fit railguns over blasters (it has a nice bonus to targeting range). It’s about as slow and tough as you remember. It’s going to be a hell of a fun ship to bring on frigate roams.

Finally, the Breacher is another missile-boat. It gets an agnostic missile damage bonus, like the Kestrel, but (and I like this) it’s second bonus is to shield repair amounts, making it a tiny, missile-tossing Cyclone. I approve.


New ORE Mining Frigate (Please name it the Chribba.)

Designed as an entry-level mining ship, this will replace the old mining frigates in the Industry Career Path tutorials. It has an outstanding mining output, capacitor, and mobility, with an astounding (for a frigate) ore hold of 5000 cubic meters. Its purpose is to be a fast hull capable of mining in hostile space (even if the current value of high-sec ore defeats this goal quite a bit). It also serves as an AMAZING gas harvester. With its inherent +2 warp core strength bonus, it should stand a fair chance of doing its job without being instantly tackled and killed.

With it’s bonuses, the ship can do with two mining lasers what it would take any other ship five lasers to accomplish. This means that when gas harvesting, it’s output as good as any gas-harvesting battlecruiser you care you name, with almost twice as much ‘ore’ cargo capacity for that gas.  Even without a propulsion mod, it can be built to be practically unscannable, cruise around at close to 500 meters per second, and align-to-warp in 2.5 seconds.

Oh, and it gets a flight of three light drones.

I will buy these things by the six-pack.


Existing Destroyers Rebalanced

CCP sees destroyers trading resilience and mobility for firepower. Existing destroyers are mostly fine as they are right now, but they are getting a few tweaks, notably the Coercer, which is in sad shape.

The Coercer is getting a second medium slot (finally!), losing a low in the process. It also got more CPU and Powergrid, so it can squeeze on the largest small lasers (once those weapon’s fitting requirements are changed, see below).

The Cormorant swaps one medium out for a new low slot. Capacitor, agility, and signature radius were inconsistent with other Caldari ships and were adjusted.

The Thrasher and Catalyst were barely touched.


Four New Destroyers

The new destroyers keep the same role as existing hulls – anti-frigate platforms. However they use alternate weapon systems to reach that goal, which means drones and missiles. Next to the existing destroyers, they have slightly less mobility, more signature radius, less capacitor, but are a bit tougher, with better damage projection due to the weapon types they use. Price will be roughly the same as existing destroyers.

Amarr: The Amarr destroyer is designed to take down opposition through indirect means. It gets bonuses to drone damage and hit points, and 20% range bonus to energy vampire and neutralizer modules (which will take up some or all of its six turrets with small neuts that reach out to about 13 kilometers). It’s basically sort of a mini-Curse. The damage is nothing special, but energy disruption ability plus drone control makes it, potentially, a real game changer in smaller fights. Like the Arbitrator, it has large bay of drones (able to field flights of five light drones at a time), giving it many options and utility choices.

Caldari: Missiles, missiles, missiles, missiles, that’s what this hull is all about. It spams missiles from eight launchers at quite a long range, and boasts improved explosion velocity to catch those pesky annoying little orbiting frigates.

GallenteCombines both turret and drone damage. Will probably have five turrets bonused for tracking (railguns), with a single utility high slot. Damage is lower than a Catalyst, but much better damage projection (two full flights of lights in its drone bay) — especially with drone damage amplifier changes.

Minmatar: This ship is unique among all Destroyers as it has a bonus that improves survivability – it is designed to zip around in the battlefield at high velocities (it gets a bonus that reduces its signature size when using a Microwarpdrive) while spewing missiles from its seven launchers. As a downside, it’s less efficient at hitting fast moving targets at greater ranges, like the Caldari hull.


Weapon and Module Changes

There have been a bunch, and I’m going to summarize a lot, and probably forget many things. This is the stuff that seems to be attracting the most attention.

Missiles

Light missiles and rockets got buffed. All larger short-range missile systems got buffed either directly, indirectly, or both. Heavy Missile Launchers got ‘nerfed’ so that they perform more in line with long-range weapon system — compared to those weapon systems, they’ll be second highest in DPS and volley damage once the changes go in. Several types of missile launchers got easier to fit. Tech2 missiles generally got buffed, though a few became less useful.

Lasers

Smalls and medium lasers got easier to fit, and several got renamed to be less stupid. (No more small lasers named “medium” something.)

Projectiles

Medium artillery cannons got easier to fit, and some ships (Hurricane) got their powergrid adjusted down to compensate. (As I mentioned yesterday, this ‘hurricane nerf’ isn’t much of one, though there may still be more changes coming.)

Drone Damage Amplifiers got easier to fit.

Ancillary Shield Boosters got nerfed down a bit, because they needed it. Basically, they have the same repair capacity, but they can’t keep it going for nearly as long before they have to reload (and then die).


Ewar Cruisers

These are the Disruption cruisers, inexpensive ewar platforms. CCP is revamping the tech1 Ewar cruisers with similar goals to the Tech1 ewar frigates. Two are focused on pure ewar with range bonuses (Blackbird and Celestis) and two are more hybrid ewar/brawlers for small gangs (Arbitrator and Bellicose).

Arbitrator: Bonus to tracking disruptors and drone damage/hit points. Not many changes, as CCP sees this as a really good ship already. In general it got a bit tougher and the capacitor got buffed. It’s got better weapon options now as well — rather than trying to squeeze on unbonused energy neutralizers in an effort to be a poor-man’s Pilgrim, the Arb pilot can run with two lasers and two missile launchers in its highs, if he wants to.

Blackbird: Bonus to ECM jam strength, optimal range, and falloff. Slightly better tank and capacitor. Now has a small drone bay. Ridiculous base targeting range (85km).

Celestis: Bonus to Sensor Damp effectiveness and optimal range. Big drone bay (two full flights of lights, or a flight of mediums) with the bandwidth to match. With the added drones and two(!) more low slots, it’s even better at ignoring its intended role to triple-web-kill frigates.

Bellicose: Bonus to Target Painter effectiveness and Missile Launcher rate of fire (with four launchers). Complimentary bonuses! Amazing! Way more CPU for fitting. Better shields. Faster. I’ll be having these.


Tech1 Support Cruisers

These are the tech1 remote repair ships designed to operate alongside or instead of Tech2 Logistics ships.
These ships continue the ‘upgrade path’ started with Support Frigates, which new players can follow all the way into T2 Logistics ships (or even carriers). These ships are weaker (both in reps and tank) than Tech2 versions, but they are designed to be capable in a mixed Tech1/Tech2 fleet, when what counts most is participation.

CCP Fozzie:
“If we’ve done our job right, then when a newer player shows up to your Armor fleet saying “I’ve got an Augoror, how can I help?” the FC will respond with “Join our logistics channel, the guys in there will get you set up with the cap chain and anchor“, rather than “LOLN00B come back with a real ship.

These ships are very close to their Tech2 counterparts in range, speed, agility, cap chain ability, and cap stability. They should be able to hang out with a Logistics crew and do their thing, albeit at reduced effectiveness. They also rely more strongly on role bonuses than skill bonuses, so that they will continue to be viable even when your pilot doesn’t have Cruiser 5. (Their repair range and cap chain ability remains basically the same no matter who’s flying the ship.)

Also, as with the the Logi frigate balance pass, CCP adjusted the repair modules at the same time, reducing some fitting requirements significantly.

The downside for their cheapness and low skill requirements will mainly be rep amount (at best, two-thirds of a Tech2 Logistics ship), signature radius, sensor strength, and tank.
Basically, all four ships got:
  • A 15% bonus to either either Remote Armor Repair amount or Remote Shield boost, per level.
  • A 5% reduction in the capacitor use of the appropriate module (remote shield or armor reppers), per level.
  • A flat 1000% bonus to the range of the appropriate module (and to Energy Transfers, for the Augoror and Osprey).

In addition, the Osprey and Augoror get a flat 200% bonus to Energy Transfer Array transfer amount (welcome to the cap chain), while the Exequror and Scythe get a bonus to the repair amount of Logistics drones.

They all get a few more fitting slots, improved power grid or CPU (or both), buffed tank, buffed capacitor, and increased drone capacity. (The Exequror tops the charts on this, as it can field a full flight of bonused medium logi drones, while the Scythe has the weird bandwidth and drone bay values that Scimitar pilots should find familiar.)


Attack Cruisers

Somewhat more anticipated cruisers than Ewar and Support Cruisers. “Attack” cruisers are the faster and lighter of the fighting cruisers.

The gap between Attack and Combat cruisers mirror the gap in the frigate lines, although for cruisers the divide isn’t as sharp. These ships do have less EHP than the Combat cruisers, but can still be tanked pretty well if you sacrifice some of your firepower.

These ships (the Omen, Caracal, Thorax, and Stabber) saw quite a bit of adjustment, though the really lame ones got more love.

Omen: Speaking of lame, boy did this guy get some love. Double-bonuses laser turrets. Another low slot. Improved powergrid and CPU. Roughly a 20% increase in mobility. Much better drone capacity.

Caracal: Excellent missile platform. Improved tank. Two more low slots. Much better powergrid and CPU. A nice fat boost to base speed.

Thorax: Probably adjusted the least of the group. Slight weaker tank, but a big boost to base speed, leaving it second only to the Stabber. A bit more CPU for fitting, another medium fitting slot, and that’s about it.

Stabber: Poor stabber, how you’ve been mistreated all these years. How can we make it up to you? How about being the fastest attack cruiser by almost 20%? Bonused turrets with a falloff buff for better kiting? Another low and mid slot? Better tank?

Can’t decide? Then you can have all of the above!

You still only get that one little light drone, though. No luck there. Sorry.


Combat Cruisers

Last but not least, the Combat Cruisers are designed as front line warships with both solid damage and good staying power. These ships got less dramatic changes than the others. The average tank of the set is only 2% higher than the average tank of the old “Tier 3” cruisers. Their main advantages over the other t1 cruisers are in tanking and a more robust capacitor.

Maller: No longer the useless, over-tanked, under-gunned bait ship! The maller gets a bonus to damage on its five laser turrets and a bonus to armor resists (rather than raw hit points, like the old version) (oops: got this confused with the Navy Augoror). A nice fat boost to powergrid should make fitting the medium turrets a lot easier, too. It picked up a chuck of base armor hit points, and also got about 25% faster.

Moa: Basically the shield version of the Maller, with a bonus to hybrid turrets and shield resistances. Doesn’t look like much else changed on this ship, but I never got the sense that it was that weak — just unspeakably ugly.

Vexor: If it ain’t broke, dont’ fix it. The vexor gets a bonus to both medium hybrid turret damage and drone hitpoints and damage. It loses the utility high slot, but gains both a mid-slot and low-slot, making it very versatile. The extra powergrid may even mean it can fit right-sized guns! Very solid tank (tons of structure hit points, because Gallente) and improved speed.

Rupture: If anything the Rupture was tweaked even less than the Vexor. One less high slot (why even bother making launchers an option), one more mid-slot (yay flexibility!). As with all minmatar, it’s faster than the other ships in its class, and remains a great option.


… and I’m spent.

Life in Eve: Quick Post on the Hurricane Nerf #eveonline

Quoting CCP Fozzie:

Since we plan to reduce the powergrid needs of all medium artillery by 10% across the board, we are also planning to subtract 225 Power Grid from the Hurricane.

The upshot is that […] fitting a standard shield autocannon cane with neutralizers and a Large Shield Extender will require dropping a few guns down to 220mm.

Lots of people are freaking out about this. This is a bit ridiculous for two reasons.

1. The hurricane deserves this adjustment. Like the Drake, it’s too good: better than most any other battlecruiser class in the game.

2. No one actually went and looked at what they could do with a Hurricane with the new powergrid totals.

[Hurricane, Post-PG-nerf 425s Shieldtank w Neuts]
Damage Control II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Experimental 10MN MicroWarpdrive I
Warp Scrambler II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II

425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
425mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Medium Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Warrior II x5
Light Armor Maintenance Bot I x1

So the current ‘cane has a powergrid of 1687 with perfect skills. Subtract 225 powergrid, and you have 1462.5 powergrid.

This fit:

  • Requires 1461.35 powergrid.
  • Rolls out at 1552 m/s.
  • Does a whopping 698 DPS.
  • Still has a solid shield tank.
  • Still has two medium-sized neutralizers, just like it always does.

In short, with good skills, this really doesn’t change much.

With less-than-perfect skills, you still don’t have to drop down to 220mm autocannons — you just put in a couple Meta3- or Meta4-level 425s to squeeze everything in.

(And even if you do switch to 220s, the damage is quite close to 425s, with better tracking — if anything, this change will make hurricanes even more dangerous as anti-support ships.)

I won’t even talk about the Drake changes — it’s been a long time coming, and if anything I don’t think it goes far enough.

Life in Eve: How to Kill Joy-sucking Faction Warfare Farmers #eveonline

So one of the more annoying (albeit small) problems with Faction Warfare that I mentioned yesterday is the fact that “running” complexes (either offensively or defensively) is, about 90% of the time, done by guys flying small, cheap ships that are built to tank damage, move fast, and let’s-not-even-bother-with-guns. This post details the basic process (and what to do with the loyalty points you make), but since then people have… let’s say “honed” the basic idea.

See, while the MLYT version works, it’s got — from a risk-adverse farmer’s point of view — a fatal flaw: it’s an armor-tanked ship, and as such, all of its low slots are devoted to tank, which means it can’t also fit Warp Core Stabilizers that will prevent anyone from tackling it and holding it on the battlefield. Well, we can’t have THAT.

I was going to post up a theoretical fitting for a ship like that, but I don’t want to waste the screen space on it. The basic idea is: Take a Merlin, then add an Afterburner, one or two Medium Ancillary shield boosters for an active tank, three Warp Core Stabilizers in the lows, and whatever rigs seem useful or necessary.

Suffice it to say you can spot a lot of Merlins on d-scan in the war zones.

I happen to love the Merlin, and it makes me sad to see it used for such lame activities. It is a noble ship, and worthy of much better things.

It behooves us, when we see such injustice, to put the poor thing out of its misery.

But how?
The problem with this type of ship is that it’s very good at what it does, which is:

  • Orbit a structure fast enough to mitigate most damage and repair the rest.
  • Leave when anyone shows up to interfere.

With the original YLMT ship, it was hard enough to catch the damn things — anyone even half awake could warp out as soon as they saw you on short-range scan. With the Warp-stabbed version it’s even worse, because you might actually get in on top of an inattentive pilot, and he’ll STILL get away, because you didn’t bring enough tackle to hold him down.

So, in order to liberate the Enslaved Merlins of Farm Warfare, we require a ship with almost the same degree of singular focus in its design as the farmer-frigates it hunts.

Our challenges:

  • Quick travel times. We’re going to be roaming all over faction warfare, looking for targets, and we want to do so quickly and with as little interference from third parties as possible.
  • Fast closing speed. Bottom line, we aren’t going to catch a pilot who’s paying close attention to directional scan. A skittish farmer will see us when we land on the acceleration gate that leads into a complex and warp away. Some won’t, though, either out of laziness (hoping we won’t actually come after them) or lack of attention, which gives us a chance when we land inside the complex. Once on-grid, we are much more likely to be noticed, and we need to get on top of our opponent before they can react; we need the speed of an interceptor in the affordable chassis of a cheap frigate.
  • Tackle, and then some more tackle. In short, we need enough tackle to negate a whole rack of low-slots loaded with warp core stabilizers.
  • Enough damage to finish the job. Our targets will be fit to tank a bunch of NPCs, so you will have to patiently whittle down their tanks until they run out of power or need to reload their capacitor boosters. Upside: You shouldn’t be taking any damage from them as this is going on, so your own tank can range from ‘thin’ to ‘nonexistent’.

Also, we want the build to be cheap (no extra-strength Faction warp scramblers that cost 14 times more than the rest of the ship), and able to get into any complex in the war zone (no Interceptors).

With these goals in mind, I’ve come up with a couple options.

[Atron, Burn the Farm]
Damage Control II
Overdrive Injector System II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Warp Scrambler II
Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I
Warp Scrambler II

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]

Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Hybrid Metastasis Adjuster I

The Atron makes a fine steed for your crusade.

  • Quick travel times. Attack frigates warp fairly quickly for ships of their tech level — all we’ll really need to worry about is how fast we get IN to warp, so as to avoid gangs and gate camps while we pursue our calling. This particular fit get into warp in 2.1 seconds.
  • Fast closing speed. With overheating, this little Atron can push over 6600 meters per second, which is enough to get from the warp-in-point to the complex beacon in roughly 10 seconds (depending on the size of the complex). You can lock your opponent about five seconds into that rush, and tackle them about as soon as the lock finishes.
  • Tackle. I don’t like this part of the fit for two reasons — one, I’d rather have one long point and one short scrambler, or better yet a web and a scambler, but that’s not enough tackle to stop our heavily warp-stabilized farmer, so this is what we have to do. The main problem here is that a farmer with an afterburner can still keep trying to escape at his full speed, which means we’ll have to pulse our microwarpdrive to keep up and keep him tackled.
  • Damage. This fit does around 155 dps, which is more than enough to finish a farmer frigate quite efficiently. Bring more ammo than you would for a normal PvP fight, since you’ll need to wear through a ship that relies on a strong, cap-booster-supported tank.

All in all, a good ship; nimble and hard-hitting.

Let’s try one more:

[Slasher, I Come for My People]
Damage Control II
Overdrive Injector System II

Warp Scrambler II
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
Warp Scrambler II
Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I

150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
Small Energy Neutralizer II

Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

Let’s just sum this up relative to the Atron:

  • Travel. Lacking some of the agility mods of the Atron, this Slasher gets into warp just a shade slower (2.3 seconds) but it’s still quite quick out of the blocks.
  • Fast? Again, it’s a hair slower than the Atron, pulling 6200 meters per second while overheating, but still quite fast.
  • Tackle. This is where the Slasher has an advantage over an Atron, as the fourth slot lets you address the issue of holding an afterburner-fit farming frigate down. I’ve opted for a dual-propulsion solution, which lets you switch to the afterburner once you have the ship tackled, easily running circles around the tackled ship, but you could accomplish pretty much the same thing with a webifier in that fourth slot. As an added bonus, the Slasher can easily run a Small Energy Neutralizer, which should let you shut off their afterburner in a cycle or two. You can’t run it permanently in this fit, but you shouldn’t need to.
  • Damage. The Slasher boasts about 65% of the Atron’s damage output, but you can afford to be patient — with superior tackle to the Atron, the ship isn’t going anywhere, and eventually the farmer will run out of cap boosters… bring lots of ammo.

I generally prefer my ships to be a little more versatile than this — these builds aren’t good for much but the job I’ve laid out here, as they are too fragile for proper PvP and somewhat too easy for bigger ships to blow up in a fleet environment — however, I could easily see myself spending an evening banging around the war zone in a ship like this, terrorizing farmers, freeing Merlins from ignoble service, and humming a jaunty tune. It would be fun.

And really, what more can you ask?

Life in EvE: How to Stop Sucking the Joy out of Faction Warfare, You Piece of Crap #eveonline

So when I started out in Faction Warfare, these were my impressions:

  1. Good place to get some small gang or solo pvp experience.
  2. Decent place to make some ISK, especially if you didn’t mind running the missions, but even if you didn’t do that, a decent way to get paid by capturing enemy complexes.
  3. A great entry-level activity for new players, thanks to the low barrier to entry on a lot of the FW-related activities.

So… yeah. Two out of three isn’t bad, I suppose. Pity I was mostly wrong about #1.
Here’s the problem.

Due to the way Faction Warfare rewards are handed out for various activities right now, and because of the way those activities are accomplished, it turns out Faction Warfare is (until the Winter Expansion drops) one of the most profitable PvE activities in the game — requiring little effort, little time invested for each payment, and very little investment in terms of ships — you can make great money with your main character, and good money with an alt only a few days old, flying a very cheap ship (the downside to making this part of EvE accessible to new players is that it’s easily exploited by experienced players with a low-skill alt).

This situation has attracted a lot of people who are only there to make ISK and have no interest in PvP. Further (and worse), it encourages those players who would be interested in PvP to avoid it in the short-term so they can make hay while the sun shines — raking in piles of ISK before the changes in the Winter Expansion come out.

My impression of Faction Warfare — the way I thought things would work, and the way I honestly believe they are intended to work — was something like this:

  • High-level FW Missions, though fairly repetive, boring, and requiring a slightly more expensive ship investment (and a fragile ship easily destroyed by bad luck or misadventure to boot), pay out well enough that an hour or two of that a week easily pays for your PvP.
  • Offensive and Defensive Complex capturing, while a decent source of income, are best as a way to stick a flag in the ground, fire up a flare, and say: “Here I am, come and get me,” with the added bonus that you wouldn’t get mobbed by a crowd of ships that vastly outclass your own.
  • System ‘sovereignty’ changes lead to larger fleet activities as systems are attacked or defended.

In short, a great place to get fairly low-commitment PVP with regular fights, in a more varied and tactical experience than a bunch of station undock and up-shipping games.

The reality:

  • High-level FW Missions are farmed for hours upon hours, day after day, by people who pull in tens of billions of ISK in any given week, because if running them for an hour or two covers PvP for a couple weeks, running them constantly is a way to get filthy rich. For all intents and purposes, these full-time mission farmers aren’t even part of the war — they contribute nothing.
  • Ninety-five percent of Offensive Complex capturing is done by unskilled alts in cheap frigates designed to fly very fast, repair enough damage to ignore all the NPC attackers in the complex, and warp away if any players try to engage them — which of course they want to do, because they have no guns fit to their ships.  Their only purpose is to rake in rewards for capturing plexes and get paid.
  • Defensive Plexing doesn’t happen.
  • No one give a tin shit about system sovereignty changes, barring one or two ‘home’ systems where larger alliances stow all their ships.  When such systems need to be defended, only those larger alliances are involved, and if you aren’t part of those alliances (but are part of the Faction), you’re left on the outside looking in, uninvited and largely unable to participate.

I can’t solve any of those problems. I have some small hope that the updates coming with the Winter Expansion will address some of it, but in the meantime…

Well, no, there is one thing I can try to do; I can try to help out those players who would like to PvP, but who are running complexes in non-combat-fit ships simply because that’s what 95% of the plex-runners do, and they figure that’s what they should do, rather than actually fly a ship that can survive the complex capture and still remain viable for PvP.

How Does I Shot War Tragets?
I’ve never run a complex in a ship that wasn’t capable of engaging in PvP, and because the ships are all cheap and fun to fly, I pretty much fly whatever race’s ships catch my fancy that day.

Since I’m flying a lot of different kinds of ships, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, I can’t just copy the same fit from ship to ship. Instead, I have certain criteria I try to meet with each ship.

  1. Afterburners > Microwarpdrives. There are exceptions to this (interceptors), but in general most small ships make themselves more vulnerable to incoming damage/easier to hit if they’re running a microwarpdrive. Yes, a microwarpdrive makes you go faster, and that seems like a good thing when you’re ‘speed tanking’, but most speed tanking is actually ‘signature tanking’ or ‘moving at a good clip while keeping your silhouette small’, and Microwarpdrives fail hard at that second part. So: Afterburners.
  2. Active Repair Tank. This doesn’t have to be a very strong active tank, if you’d prefer to just have a fat buffer of hit points, but you do need to be able to patch yourself up at least a little bit as you go, because you WILL get hit a little bit by the NPCs in the complexes, and if a player engages you, you don’t want to start the fight beat up.
  3. Put some fucking guns on. Man up and get in the fight. In fact, one of your main goals is a fit that is reasonably viable for PvP while still being capable of the modicum of PvE required to capture a plex.
  4. Have a way to reduce the heat from NPCs, if it becomes a problem. Since you actually want to be able to fight if someone engages, you can’t make the ultimate, gimped, super-fast, speed-tank, non-combat, run-away frigate. This means that you might actually get tagged every so often by NPC enemies, and that can become a problem if they build up a lot as you capture the complex. Therefore, as you pick out your weaponry, try to have some kind of option for taking out the more troublesome of the enemy NPCs. Ironically, the tougher the complexes get, the less this becomes an issue, because the big ships in the bigger complexes can’t usually hit your little frigate. That too will change with the winter expansion, to which I can only say “about time”.

So with that covered, here are some suggestions.

[Merlin, FW Med Anc Booster Rails]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II

J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster, Cap Booster 50
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I

There are lots of ways to fit a merlin — it’s a wonderfully versatile ship, but I have some criteria to meet, if you remember:

  1. Afterburners/Speed. Check. Although its tank depends on shields, the signature of the Merlin stays fairly small. It’s not the fastest ship I’ll mention, but it clips along at just short of 1000 meters per second, which mitigates a great deal of damage.
  2. Active Repair Tank. The inherent damage resists in the Merlin make it a great shield tanker, and a medium ancillary shield booster is more than enough to patch up incidental damage, and then go into overdrive during a proper PvP fight.
  3. PvP-viable. This isn’t a typical, “pure” PvP-fit for a Merlin (which usually features blasters instead of long-range railguns), but it still works well enough, considering you’re trying to serve two masters. The idea is to get both the warp scrambler and the webifier on your opponent, so as to cut his speed and hold him at arm’s length — about 6 to 8 kilometers — where you can plink away with your railguns and stay out of the effective range of their (presumably short-range, hard hitting) weapons. Works well against blasters, rockets, and auto-cannons. Pulse lasers are your bane (as they can put their full damage on you from right in your sweet spot), and light missiles and Artillery-fit Thrashers can be a real problem unless you maintain sufficient range and plink away from very long range with Spike ammo to drive them off.
  4. Have a way to reduce the heat from NPCs, if it becomes a problem. This is easy with rails, as it is with most longer-range weapon systems. Wait for the NPCs to get close (<15km) if you’re using short-range ammo, or pop NPC frigates with Spike ammo when they get any closer than about 35 kilometers. They’ll never get a proper hit on you.

[Incursus, Incursus: Dual repper]
Small Armor Repairer II
Small Armor Repairer II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
Warp Scrambler II
Small Capacitor Booster II, Cap Booster 200

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

Hobgoblin II x1

This is far more of a standard PvP fit, which just happens to work beautifully for capturing complexes.

  1. Afterburners/Speed. Check. Although the armor rigs on the Incursus make it a bit slower than a Merlin, the fact you aren’t puffing up your shields make you an even smaller target.
  2. Active Repair Tank. Holy cow can this thing tank. Although running both repair modules (or even one module full time) will empty out your capacitor fairly quickly, you don’t need to do more than pulse a single repper every so often to keep up with incoming NPC damage, and when a player engages, you can bring both online, start using your Cap Booster, and tank pretty much any ship in your class.
  3. PvP Viable. A dual rep Incursus tanks extremely well – around 170dps before overheating, which with the cap booster it can sustain for … well, longer than any frigate fight should take. The downside is, you give up a web to pull this off, which means you might struggle to get in close and melt face as the gods intended.
  4. Have a way to reduce the heat from NPCs, if it becomes a problem. Although the blasters on this thing make it very unlikely you’ll want to run around killing NPCs directly, you have a single scout drone, which should be enough to take out frigate NPCs, which are the only things that will hit you with much regularity.

[Atron, ASB AB Rails Atron]
Damage Control II
Tracking Enhancer II
Overdrive Injector System II

1MN Afterburner II
Medium Ancillary Shield Booster, Cap Booster 50
J5 Prototype Warp Disruptor I

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

I don’t have much to say about this Atron, really, except that it works well enough. I put rails on it so it can kite and fight at long ranges with a long-range point, since at close range the shield fit will make you feel the absence of a web to control range on your opponent. I tried an active armor tank, but it doesn’t do enough to keep up with the NPCs and gimps the speed on the ship too much. Left as-is, it works, it’s quite fast, and gives you the option to get out if things start to look really bad. Basically, you fly it like the Merlin, above, except you fly about 500 meters/second faster, aren’t as tough, and don’t have the web to help you hold range. Fly accordingly. (I like Atrons a lot, I don’t love this particular fit, but it works well enough. I’d welcome other fits viable for plexing + PvP.)

Still, if I was going to go with a really fast shield tanked frigate, I’d prefer…

[Slasher, FW-Frigate]
F85 Peripheral Damage System I
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Medium Ancillary Shield Booster, Cap Booster 50
1MN Afterburner II
Warp Scrambler II
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
5W Infectious Power System Malfunction

Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-EM Screen Reinforcer I
Small Anti-Thermal Screen Reinforcer I

Sweet fancy Moses, but this thing flies. 1500+ meters/second. The tank isn’t as hardcore as the merlin, but almost nothing will get a solid hit on you. With short-range guns and no drones, clearing out frigate NPCs is a problem — until the Winter Expansion changes come, this is a frigate that would rather be in a medium or Major complex, rather than a frigate-heavy Minor.

I find the ship very flexible for PvP (I’ve got double handfuls of these ships around, featuring a ton of variations). This particular fit wants to get in very close in most cases (excepting blaster-wielding opponents), and it’s generally fast enough to do that, then hold them right where you want them.

Best of all, you can run every single module on the ship, full time, including the energy neutralizer, and your capacitor remains stable. That neut will ruin the day of almost any other frigate you meet.

[Tormentor, FW Plex]
Small Armor Repairer II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Adaptive Nano Plating II
Damage Control II

1MN Afterburner II
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator
Small Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I, Cap Booster 200

Medium Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Medium Pulse Laser II, Scorch S
Medium Pulse Laser II, Scorch S

Small Anti-Kinetic Pump I
Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

Warrior II x2

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually flown this one yet, because the changes to lasers in the winter expansion will change how this fitting works, so just a few notes:

It doesn’t tank as much as the Incursus, obviously, but the tank isn’t bad, and it’s more than enough for either pulsing to keep your tank up versus NPCs, or for the brief flurry of violence that characterizes most frigate fights. You make up for the lighter reps with much better damage projection than the Incursus: two drones (great for NPC clearing), plus pulse lasers (Scorch ammo optional) let you push your damage out very well (10+km with Scorch, which is damn good for ‘short range’ guns.)

Yes, I know it doesn’t have a scram on. Play around with it if you like, but you’ll have wait for the fitting requirements on the Lasers to drop in the winter expansion before it will fit. My theory with the web is that it will slow down the opponent and let the lasers hit hard, hopefully killing them before they realize they’re in trouble and try to get out, because frigate fights are so fast.

Is it a perfect fit? No.

Is it better than flying something with no fucking guns on, where your only PvP option is to run away?

I’m not even going to answer that.

Grab a ship.

Grab your guns.

Have some fun.

Butterfly Effect

The Mittani news site reports that one of the four people killed in an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya was Sean Smith, known in Eve as Vile Rat, one of the old-guard Goonfleet members, probably one of the group’s best known diplomats, and member of the generally well-regarded sixth Council of Stellar Management, a player-elected group that brings player concerns to CCP, face to face.

In short, he was a guy who helped steer the helm of the one of the most influential groups in the game, interacted with all the other influential groups in the game, and represented player concerns to CCP. If you played EvE, odds are he said or did something that affected you every time you logged in, whether you knew it or not; whether you cared or not.

The internet is a weird place, and EvE no less so. I didn’t know this man, and my only interaction with Vile Rat was shooting at him a couple times last year when he flew through Curse on his way somewhere else. But I still found myself touched and a little misty as I read through memorials and eulogy posts by those who knew him better. He touched a lot of people, he was by all accounts a stand-up guy, he had a wife and family who were happy to fly with him to Iceland when he had to do internet-famous things, and he served in more than a few locations around the world that forced him to log out suddenly with nothing more than “Shit. Gunfire.” —  The quiet heroism of those who choose to serve their country despite the risks.

Heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Let’s play a Game

Just because (a) I’m super busy right now and (b) this little quiz (via Reddit) has been running around in my head all day. Here we go:


You’re going to spend 10 years in a 10×10 foot cell. The cell has the most basic facilities; a toilet, cold running water from a tap, a thin mattress and a light. Everyday a basic ration of food is delivered through a small hatch. There is no way to escape this cell. Before you enter you are given 30 credits to spend on some of the following items.

  • Access to a basic gym. It contains a rowing machine, treadmill and several free weights. [10 Credits]
  • A window. The window overlooks a lake. It does not open and you cannot break the glass. [3 Credits]
  • A comfortable bed. Memory Foam Mattress, a quilt and two comfortable pillows. Sheets are washed weekly and delivered through the hatch. [6 Credits]
  • Unlimited alcohol. Either beer or spirits available through a second tap. You must choose what drink you want before you enter the cell and cannot change your selection. Mixer available for spirits. [8 Credits]
  • 42″ TV. You can select 1 TV station to view. You must choose what station you want before you enter the cell and cannot change your selection. [6 Credits]
  • PS3/Xbox360/Wii. You may select one current generation console and 10 games. You must have a TV to play these on. [6 Credits]
  • Gaming PC. You can select 10 games. The computer has no internet connection. [10 Credits]
  • 100 Books. You can choose your selection. [7 Credits]
  • Unlimited takeaway food. Whenever you want you could get McDonalds’, KFC, Burger King, Subway, or any other food from a fast food restaurant. [10 Credits]
  • A companion. Another person to spend the time with. You may choose the sex of the person and general age. [15 Credits]
  • 32GB MP3 player and speakers. Loaded with your favorite music. [5 Credits]
  • Tennis ball. Think of the fun you can have! [2 Credits]
  • Fleshlight and unlimited lube. Vibrator if you’re a lady. [5 Credits]
  • Glory hole. Insert penis, receive blow job! Opposite for the ladies. [6 Credits]
  • Netflix. You must have a TV or PC to view it on. As new films are released they will be available to view. [2 Credits]
  • A cat. The cat will receive as much food and vetcare as it needs. [5 Credits]
  • A dog. Mans best friend. The dog will receive as much food and vetcare as it needs. [4 Credits]
  • Access to a read only archive of Reddit. [2 Credits]
  • Hot water. Available in a shower cubical attached to the cell. [3 Credits]
  • Access to a garden. The garden is the same size as the cell. It is surrounded by 15ft walls which are impossible to climb over and escape. [9 Credits]
  • Double the cell space. Have a bit more room to live in. [4 Credits]
  • Get out 1 year early. You may buy as many of these as you like. [4 Credits]
  • $2million when you leave. You may buy as many of these as you like. [3 Credits]
  • Healthcare. If you get ill, whether it’s a cold or full blown cancer, you will receive the best medical care possible. [5 Credits]
  • Youth. Don’t age a day while inside the cell. [5 Credits]
  • Knowledge. You will have the chance to study for 6 hours every day in a subject of your choice. A tutor will be available once a week. [7 Credits]
  • Guitar. A guide to how to play is included if you don’t know how. [6 Credits]
  • Leave immediately card. You can use this to leave the cell straight away. However you will forfeit your ability to see. You’ll be free but blind. You can choose whether or not to use this item. [1 Credit]

So: what do you pick and why?

I’ll post my answer in a few days, so as not to skew replies.

Life in Eve: Faction Warfare Tools

Following a conversation with a fellow Eve player after one of my readings last week, I realized I’ve dug up a fair amount of information about how Faction Warfare works, and that it might be useful for any players looking to check it out. Here we go:

Basic Guides

Maps

  • You’ll want to keep an eye on what’s happening in the warzone, and who controls what systems. The easiest way to do that is via dotlan, which keeps API-updated maps on the Amarr vs. Minmatar warzone, as well as the Caldari vs. Gallente.
  • One thing the dotlan maps don’t show particularly well, though, are the systems where the Faction Warfare corporations have offices (and, thus, where you can trade in Loyalty Points and pick up missions). Luckily, there are static maps for that, one for Minmatar-Amarr, and one for Caldari-Gallente.

Knowing Who to Shoot At
As with any other PvP activity, one of the most important things you need to do is make sure your Overview isn’t completely useless. I found very little on this initially, and simply muddled around with the PvP overviews I was already using, with a few changes in the priority of displayed information. Although fairly basic, this image (which I was shown quite a bit later) is a decent starting point for new pilots adjusting their overview settings — every little bit helps.

… and that’s about it. There are a few guides from sites like Eve University that I haven’t mentioned, but they’re easy enough to dig up, and honestly don’t add much in my opinion. If you want to check them out, I’m sure you can find them.

Good hunting!

My Reddit “Ask Me Anything” is Today!

Like the title says, today (well, at 7pm central) I will be on Reddit answering All The Things during an AMA or “Ask Me Anything.”

The basic idea is quite simple. I make a post to start things off, the ENTIRE INTERNET shows up and asks me stuff, and this evening I answer their questions.

If you have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).

If you do not have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to make one and then drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).

So: possibility of free stuff for the low low price of bugging me on the internet. WHERE IS THE DOWNSIDE?

Hidden Things Release Week News

Things are going to be very crazy around Casa Testerman this week, and rather than just going radio silent, I figured I’d at least let you guys know what’s going on.

So Hidden Things officially releases tomorrow — I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people telling me that they’ve gotten notification their preorders are on the way, which is both very scary and very exciting. There have been quite a few reviews posted already (more on that in another post), but obviously that doesn’t compare to the number of people about to put their eyeballs on the story — I really have no idea what the end result of all that is going to be, so I’m going to focus on what’s going on right now.

“Right Now” Means…

Today, the Once and Future Podcast has a new podcast up, and it’s me, talking about Hidden Things! Well, it’s me and Anton Stout, and we’re talking about Hidden Things, Adrift, writing, City of Heroes, Tolkein, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, MMOs, fan fiction, lego, Skylanders, tabletop gaming, dice obsessions, and pretty much every other nerdy thing you can pack into an hour and ten minutes.

Wednesday, I will be reading and talking and signing books at the Tattered Cover, a great Colorado indie bookstore. This will be my first public reading, ever, which means I will probably screw it up in some kind of hilarious fashion, and you should totally stop by to point and laugh and post pictures on Facebook.

Thursday, I will be doing an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit’s r/Fantasy, organized by the fine moderators of that subreddit. I will have more about this as we get closer to go-time, but as a pretty rabid redditor I have to say that I’m incredibly geeked-out and excited about this, and I sincerely hope THE ENTIRE INTERNET shows up to ask me questions about… you know… whatever. I mean, it’s supposed to be about writing, and Hidden Things and probably NaNoWriMo and gaming stuff but… whatever.

Thursday will also see me drop by for an interview with Chuck Wendig on terribleminds.com (direct link when it goes up), which will include a short story that I’ll be hosting here. Also, I’ll be countering his baseless slander and accusations with an interview of my own, with Chuck, posted up here on the same day.

Friday, I’ll be doing a reading/signing up at Fireside Books in Fort Collins, another great indie bookseller. I’m excited about this one as well, especially since I really have no idea what to expect from this event, in terms of visitors and audience.

Next week, I’ll also be over at the Qwillery as part of their 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

The object of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge is for participants to read at least 12 debut novels during 2012 – one from each month of the year though you may read them anytime between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

(Last week, Hidden Things won the Qwillery’s 2012 Debut Author Challenge August “Cover Wars”, which I’m really happy about even though I had nothing to do with it — it’s just cool that other people liked it as much as I do.)

That’s it for now — I’m still trying to sort out September events coming up, but stay tuned.

Funcertainty

This is sort of a general gaming post, though it’ll end up talking about EvE very specifically at the end, which is only fair since EvE is where this whole line of thought began.

A few days ago I was doing an interview with Anton Strout for the Once and Future Podcast and (because the ‘cast is equal parts about writing and the rabid nerdity of the guests) Anton asked me when I first got my start with gaming.

For the sake of my own dignity, I won’t get into hard numbers, but my answer involved the novelization of the movie E.T., and me begging my mom to buy me the pink DnD boxed set from the Sears catalog. It was a while back, is what I’m saying.

On the long march between then and now, I ran a lot of bad games, for which I will make few apologies, because at the time I don’t think any of us realized they were bad games. Me and my high school gaming buddies (who dodged typical mid-eighties nerd hazing by also being most of the starting offensive line for the varsity football team) might have gotten the rules wrong as we stomped through Castle Ravenloft, but that didn’t stop it from being a good time. Monsters were vanquished, horrors were driven from their places of power, and the village graveyard acquired more than a few fresh headstones in the process, each marble slab engraved with the name of a beloved player character (levels 3-5) who’d failed a save against poison, fear, or (most often) death.

Thing is, getting a rule wrong was never (directly) what made the game bad. After all, when you’re talking about a game (any game) the only real qualifier for “bad” is “not fun.” Misruling could lead to that, sure, but most of the time, a lack of fun came from two places:

  • Something social, outside the game itself.
  • The absence of uncertainty.

I’m not going to talk about the Social thing right now — that’s well-traveled ground. I do want to talk about that second thing.

Ask any gamer about the best moments they’ve had in their gaming, and you will usually hear a story about some nail-biting conflict.

My crazy barbarian decides to try to trip the dragon he and his allies are fighting, despite horrible odds — and it worked.

My buddy’s knight takes on an evil paladin wielding a sword that can kill him with a single unlucky hit, and the fight comes down to a mutually fatal roll of the dice.

Our team has to hold the western flank against the the advancing Imperial forces on Hoth to give the transports time to escape, then get away themselves… by stealing Vadar’s shuttle.

Good times.

You know what no one’s likely to mention?

“This one time, I walked into a room full of 50 goblins with crossbows, but my Armor Class was so good they couldn’t hit me and I just used Great Cleave and killed all of them in like… two turns.”

“I walked into this hook-and-chain trap that was supposed to do a bunch of damage to a group of people, but it was just me, so the damage for a whole group hit just me and basically turned me into a pile of giblets, instantly.”

“We tried to talk the King into letting us do something, but we couldn’t convince him, because the GM had something different planned.” 1

I think you can see the core difference between those examples, but I point it out anyway.

Certainty.

In my opinion, certainty is the death of fun in most any game, and it may be one of the things that separate “games” from “sport” (where certainty of victory comes via skill and ability and lots of hard work, and is justifiably celebrated).

If you’re on the winning side of things, certainty is boring. The classic example of that is the old “Monty Haul” campaign, where the GM is basically there to make sure you find all the treasure he put in the dungeon, and never have to feel the sting of defeat. Fun as a powertrip, maybe, for awhile, but ultimately coma-inducing.

If you’re on the losing side of things, certainty is — at best — frustrating. When there’s no chance at all of success, even the ‘live to fight another day’ kind, then you might as well check out of the whole thing now and save the time you’d otherwise waste on caring about the outcome.

Over many (many) years of gaming, I’ve managed to figure out (one situation at a time) when something I was doing was killing fun by making the results (good or bad) a foregone conclusion. (Sometimes this was a question of mechanics; sometimes it was a question of “the inviolate plot.”) It also helped me identify what was going wrong when I wasn’t having fun as a player, both at a table or online.

Slamming my head against the same raid boss over and over, when it’s clear we don’t have the right group or the proper gear to succeed? Not fun.

Fighting that same raid boss when we’re this close to pulling off a win, and every attempt might go for us or the bad guys? Exhilarating.

Farming that boss once we have all the best gear, know the fight backwards and forwards, and all the surprises are gone? Boring.

Wandering around the newbie starter zone with my max-level character, picking flowers to level my Herbalism? Boring.

Sneaking through a zone 10 or 20 levels too high for me, running for my life in an effort to get a specific location or find a special macguffin? Fun!

Getting insta-killed out of nowhere when you unknowingly walk your new character into a high-level PvP zone? Frustrating.

I think we get the point. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re running or playing a game in which you have any kind of input (usually tabletop, but not always). Are you bored? Add challenge to what you’re doing by changing the choices you make. Are you hopelessly frustrated by never-ending failures? Change things up, or take a break, right?

So let’s talk about EvE
First, EvE PvE content — from missions to mining to exploration — is pretty terrible.

Now, maybe (probably) it doesn’t seem terrible when you first start playing the game, because you don’t know enough to realize how very (very) certain the outcome of any PvE mission content in the game really is; you don’t know how much DPS you need to be able to tank to survive a mission, and even if you do, you may not know how (or simply be unable) to fit your ship in a way that will achieve that threshold. Your lack of knowledge provides the uncertainty that is not otherwise present. 2

Once you know much at all about the game, though, you start to see the reality of the situation. The groups are always exactly the same size. They always do pretty much exactly the same amount of damage. They always aggress the first person they see, they never switch their aggression to another person (unless the first one leaves). Once you have the situation worked out — once you know how to approach it, it’s about as challenging as your fiftieth game of Minesweeper.3 The ‘best’ PvE in the game (Sleepers and Incursions) injects a bare amount of uncertainty with randomly switching aggro, which is still pretty hopeless. Almost any other MMO you care to name (even those that predate EvE) have long since worked on more advanced combat AIs.

“But the PvP in EvE is so much better than everyone else: completely emergent, completely unpredictable, completely uncertain!”

Maybe.

Yes, a big part of the draw in EvE is the PvP (whether it’s PvP with bullets, tactics, or the infamous metagaming). Even if you don’t personally seek out PvP, it’s still a factor in your play, because once you undock, someone else can shoot you. They might choose not too because of the potential consequences, but they always have that option. Always. There isn’t a one hundred percent safe, PvP-free zone anywhere in space. (Hell, for that matter, you’re not entirely safe from PvP even if you never undock and just work the market all day — Market PvP is a very real thing in EvE, but I digress.)

For as long as there has been PvP in EvE, there have been people bitching about the PvP. A lot of that kvetching and moaning (on both sides of every subject) has do with mechanics like ECM or the ever-present accusations that this or that tactic or practice is “dishonorable”, “ruins the game”, or removes any chance of a “good fight.”

Dishonorable. What a word! Simultaneously loaded with drama and completely meaningless in any debate involving more than one person. 😛

You can kind of sort out what most of the people using the term intend when they say it, though.

“Your actions have removed all questions of skill, choice, and your opponent’s actions from the equation, ensuring your victory.”

Put another way.

“You have removed all uncertainty.”

Put another way.

“You’ve taken everything that makes a game fun out of this situation.”

Now, that’s a comment that’s likely going to earn you a lock of mockery in EvE (which is why no one says it that way). The leader of one of the biggest groups the game is famously quoted as saying “We’re not trying to ruin the game, we’re trying to ruin your game.” Tell those guys that they’re taking away the elements of the game that make it fun for other people, and they’d probably exchange high-fives and another round of Jagerbombs.

But let’s ignore the walking embodiment of the John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Dickwad Theory for a moment, and just look at the basics here.

EvE is a game.

A game’s primary purpose is to provide fun.

Fun in a game (unlike fun in sport) arises from a sense of uncertainty.

Removing uncertainty removes fun.

What’s the kind of stuff that removes that uncertainty?

  1. Overwhelming force.

Actually? I can stop there. There are lots of ways in which “overwhelming force” is expressed in the game (attacking a group of 5 with a group of 20 (if only: 1 vs 100 is just as common), shipping up, a impenetrable wall of ECM, logistics support for a ‘casual roam’, et cetera, et cetera), and pretty much all of it takes place in the game with the specific goal of ensuring victory.

Is that a bad thing? No, not if the goal is winning, which is a goal I completely understand. EvE is a costly game in terms of time and resources — when you lose, you really lose stuff, so people often forget (or forego) “what would be fun” in favor of whatever the best way is to mitigate risk.

I’m not going to say that this is bad for the game. In a lot of ways, it’s what makes EvE what it is, and I like what it is.

However.

If you find yourself frustrated by the game, may I suggest taking a step back and looking at your current style of play.

Is it possible that the reason that you’re not having much fun is simply because you’ve methodically removed the elements that make a game fun?

Uncertainty is fun.

Uncertainty comes from risk.

As an experiment:

  • Distance yourself in some way from groups that treat ship losses an inherently bad thing.
  • Release your death grip on “Killboard Efficiency.”
  • If fights are always boring, maybe bring fewer people. Or leave the ECM or the off-grid boosting alts (or both) at home.
  • Take a fight when the outcome isn’t clear.

It’s hard to do.

It’s hard to do even when it’s just you — it’s even harder when you’re making decisions for a whole group of people.

Going back to my tabletop roots, it’s damned hard as the GM to take the plunge and start rolling all the dice out in the open and letting things go on without that safety net of secretly fudging a potentially fatal roll. I mean, OMG: what if your dice get hot and you kill the dude one of your guys has been playing for two years?

Similarly, what if your decision costs your fleetmate his 2 billion isk strategic cruiser?

Most people don’t know what would happen, because they don’t have the guts to risk it.

But what a story they’d have if they did.


1 – This is, incidentally, why I prefer to roll dice to determine the outcome of social conflicts, rather than let “pure role-playing” determine the outcome. No matter how mature or unbiased we claim to be, that sort of ‘system’ is one highly susceptible to out-of-game social maneuvering of various kinds, the least harmful of which is the simple fact that if you know the GM well enough, you know exactly what argument will convince them to let you win. It’s the same reason I don’t like playing Apples to Apples with my best friends anymore — there’s absolutely no challenge to it; we know each other too well. Roll the dice, and enjoy the fact that the outcome may not be what you expected.

2 – This is what I call the Chutes and Ladders syndrome: Chutes and Ladders is a terrible, boring game… unless you’re too young too realize it’s terrible, at which point you probably think it’s the Best Game Ever.

3 – Mining is even worse. Barring the possibility of being jumped by a random player (which isn’t part of the mining system itself), there is no variation at all: ask any serious miner how much he can mine in an hour, and he will be able to give you an answer down to the second decimal point for every type of ore available. I don’t know what ‘injecting uncertainty’ into the baseline mining experience looks like, but it’s what needs to happen to make it suck less.

Life in EvE: Shirt Off My Back #eveonline

“You bought a shirt?” CB’s voice on comms is muddled, as if he can’t decide between a mocking tone and something that conveys more disgust.

“Two shirts,” I correct him as I check the map of the local constellation. “Let’s head for Floseswin via Gallente space — there’s usually some Amarr hitting complexes back there.”

“On it.” His ship, a mirror to my own Thrasher-class destroyer, comes about and aligns to the next gate. “So what are you going to do with two hundred-million isk shirts?”

“They didn’t cost that much, with the discount the TLF had at the time,” I reply. “More like 25 million.”

CB fills our channel with a string of profanity that last most of the way through the 63 AU warp across the system. “Who the fuck pays 25 million isk for a shirt?”

“Well…” I drawl. “Someone who intends to sell them for… more than that.”

He pauses. “How much more?”

“The thing is, these things are really rare outside the Militia. Hell, they’re rare inside the militia.”

“That’s not exactly hard to understand.”

“Right. Anyway, hardly anyone picks them out and then puts them back out on the public market, so I figure they won’t move very fast, but if someone’s looking for some fancy outfit that no one else will have –”

“– for those incredibly common times when we’re out of our ships and socializing?”

“I don’t know — people with too much money spend it on stupid shit just to say they have it. Jump gate on contact and swing over to Isbrabata.”

“Copy that.” His ship warps off, and I continue through the Aset system. “So how much did you put them on the market for?”

“That was tricky,” I say. “No one had ever sold them on the market before, so I kind of had to guess how much some rich idiot would be willing to pay.”

“Fascinating,” CB deadpans. “How much did you list them for?”

“I tried to check the Jita market, but with the Caldari shooting me on site whenever I swing into their system, it was kind of hard to do –”

“How much,” he growls, “did you list them for?”

“Two hundred fifty million,” I answer. “A piece.”

He makes sputtering sounds into his comms. “You think anyone –”

“Break break,” I cut in. “Got an Ishtar on scan.” I hit the directional scan again, but the ship is gone. “Crap, he’s going the other way. Jump back to Avenod.”

“I’m two jumps out.”

“That’s fine, it’s just to get in front of him. I have to get turned around first.” I land on my destination gate, cancel the gate jump, spin the ship around and warp back the other direction.

“Which one’s the Ishtar?”

“Ishkur,” I correct him.

“You said Ishtar.”

“Did I?” I frowned. “Well, I meant Ishkur. It’s that Incursus variant with all the drones. Tough little assault frigate. He might be willing to take us on, or I can get him engaged and tackled before you get there. Something.”

“Can we take him?”

“Probably, though he’ll likely blow up whichever of us snags him first.” Our destroyers were fit for short, brutal engagements ending in explosions — either ours or someone else’s — the Ishkur was tough enough to drag the fight out and get through one of our ships. Probably not both, though.

Probably. I grin. As always, it was the uncertainty of a fight that made the whole thing worth it.

“Jumping into Avenod.” There’s a flash on my overview, gone almost as soon as I see it. “He was right here. I think he just opened a major complex in here. Ballsy. Warping up there.”

“Landing on my gate. Want me to jump in?”

My ship enters warp. “Yeah. I’ll land and –” I frown as I drop out of warp at short range, eyeing our target ship’s silhouette. “That’s weird, it looks like Vexoooooh… oh. Shit.” I laugh into the mic as the Ishtar heavy assault cruiser — the Ishkur’s bigger, badder brother — disgorges a flight of drones in my direction; one of the probably half-dozen or so flights he can field before the ship runs low. “Cancel that. Don’t warp. Target’s not an Ishkur. It’s an Ishtar.”

“I told you that’s what you said.”

I laugh again, shaking my head and readying my warp commands to get my escape pod out as my fragile destroyer melts in the face of the far heavier ship’s firepower. As the explosion rocks me free of the wreckage, I switch to the star system’s public comms for a moment.

Ty > Good fight! Thought you were a little ol’ Ishkur… Whoops!
Maren > Ahh… yeah, I just thought you were just being really aggressive.

“I’m laughing my ass off at you right now,” CB says as I warp out and set course to pick up a new ship. “I thought you should know.”

“I am too,” I grin. “Ahh well. Good start to the night’s roam. What shall I blow up now?”

“Whatever you like, I guess,” CB replied. “You can pay for it with those shirts, if they ever sell.”

“Oh,” I replied. “See, that’s the punchline.”

Silence. Then: “They already sold?”

“Yup. Not right away, but pretty fast.” I shrug. “I priced them too low, I guess. Still, half a billion off a couple shirts isn’t bad.”

“Who –” CB cuts himself off. “Okay, hurry up and get back here. I really need to shoot somebody.”


So yeah:

  • I was so used to seeing frigates and other small ships that my brain convinced me an Ishtar was an Ishkur. Whoops. Still, it was pretty funny.
  • People will pay stupid amounts of money for rare things.
  • You can actually put those special clothing items on, wear them awhile and then, if you get bored with the look, remove them and they drop right back into your items hangar in whatever station you’re in. Which means you can then sell them. So… if you recently spent 250 million on a black and red uniform shirt that smelled a little… used? Sorry about that.

Life in Eve: Two Months in the War #eveonline

Ty’s currently at 2 months and 2 days with the small corp he and CB formed solely to take into Faction Warfare and, if memory serves, that means it’s been exactly 2 months since we joined up. I’m inclined to take a look back and see how things have gone.

PvP Experience and Enjoyment
This is, ostensibly, what I wanted to get into the whole thing for, so how’s that been going?

June was definitely a learning month; all told, I was on two kills for the month and lost seven ships (six of which had something to do with Faction Warfare (the seventh was just me running around nullsec in a Talos until I blew the thing up).

With that said, I learned a lot from those losses, and June also marked my first small gang roam with a FW group (netting a fine battlecruiser kill), and my first solo kill, ever. Pretty hard to complain about that.

Killboard efficiency is vastly overrated, in my opinion, but it’s hard not to be pretty happy with both July and August. I turned around the numbers from June and have managed to maintain a 3:1 kill ratio and a stupidly lopsided ISK destroyed to ISK lost ratio (thanks to flying frigates and other cheap ships), in addition to getting a couple more solo kills and FCing a fleet for hilarious results. Again, I don’t really care about the numbers, but it’s nice to look at the big picture as well as review fights and review my many mistakes. 🙂 (In all seriousness: I don’t lose less ISK if I destroy someone else’s ship, so who cares what my “ISK efficiency” is? Meaningless number.)

Income
The Faction Warfare screens are accessed in-game by drilling down into the “Business” menu, and that’s no accident — a lot of folks are there solely to make ISK, and though it’s a secondary concern for me (I make more than enough from Planetary Interaction Colonies), you’re going to make a fair amount of money even if you don’t pay it much attention and just “try everything”, as I like to do. In the last two months I’ve netted (not grossed) several billion isk from Faction Warfare as a result of truly, TRULY desultory money making effort on my part (easily less than ten percent of the time I’ve spent on FW, total), including cashing out my loyalty points at the “wrong” tier almost every time.1 On a minute-to-minute basis, there is simply nothing else I’ve done in the game that makes as much ISK in such short, discrete, instant-on chunks of time.

People will argue about whether the small gang and solo pvp is a bonus feature of Faction Warfare money making activities, or if it’s the other way around, but it hardly matters — if you want both, and plan for both, you’re going to be pretty happy with the results.

Social
This is slower going, due to the necessary and justified paranoia that runs through Faction Warfare, but I’ve gotten fairly familiar with a couple groups, and can jump on (or ignore) their nightly shenanigans with zero drama. That ‘social curve’ is steeper than what a typical MMO player might expect (unless you’re joining up with friends), but the rewards are worth it for me.

Overall
You know, the fact of the matter is, I didn’t blog about EvE all last week because I was too busy playing EvE. I suppose that says a lot right there, and mercuryapp.com (which I use to take down the notes that eventually become blog posts) reflects my satisfaction with the last sixty days.

After a year or more in Wormholes (which, while fun, almost always require extensive scanning preceding any kind of organized activity, and ongoing scanning throughout said activity), the fact that I can log in, hop in a ship, undock, do something, fight someone, and make twenty to sixty million isk — all within 15 to 30 minutes — is a huge draw for me, especially right now.

In my opinion, Faction Warfare may be the best “mixed-discipline” activity in the game for a new player coming into EvE Online for the first time, though RvB and EvE Uni have a better infrastructure built in for training new pilots the ins and outs of the game. I’d highly recommend it for that new player, or any more experienced player looking for something different to try out.


1 – Can you make more money doing other things in EvE? Sure. Can you do it in ten-minute chunks of time, solo, in a tech 1 frigate or a cheap bomber? No.

Mulling over a ‘tapestry’ style throne-war game

So I’ve been reading the George R.R. Martin books. They’re good, and if you haven’t read them and like fantasy stuff, you probably should read them.

Just don’t read any other fantasy book right after reading one of Martin’s — you will not do that following book any favors. Switch genres.

Also: man Martin likes to put his character’s through a wringer. Wow.

Anyway.

One of the things with these books is that every chapter switches to a different POV character. Each book gives us about eight or nine or so. A lot of them are the same from book to book (so far as I’ve read, anyway), and it’s worth noting that all these ‘main’ characters1 are (almost all of the time) geographically separated from each other.

It makes me chuckle, because reminds me a lot of some of the games (especially Amber and, more recently, Galactic) that I’ve run, because every chapter reads like “Okay, what are you doing? Fine, let’s play that, and now for the roll, and ooooh, you didn’t roll that well, did you? Well, here’s what happens — sorry about that — now who’s next?”

And it seems like that would be a pretty fun thing to do with a game when you have a good supply of potential players, but a limited window of play time each week AND players who may not live anywhere near you. I mean, we have google hang-outs (and a pile of other voice/video options), free virtual tabletop software, and about a zillion ways to collaboratively take notes, regardless of where you are. Some of it’s face to face, some of it’s not, but it’s all part of the tapestry of the story, yeah?

My goal with something like this would be to make sure it didn’t end up being a Play-by-Post for some folks and a normal game for everyone else; partly because that’s not fair, and partly because I’m terrible at maintaining participation-level interest in play-by-post games. In short, you make sure everyone gets the same number of chapters, whether they are at your table online.

Anyone done this much? I know Constantcon is a year-long successful thing, and probably indicates that it’s possible, whether or not it’s possible for me.

#curious


1 — Calling only those characters a main character isn’t very accurate. There are lots of characters who are hugely central to the story, but simply aren’t POV characters.

In a game like this, I think every player would have to have secondary characters they can switch two who are near the new POV characters. When it’s Jon Snow’s turn, everyone pulls out their Black Watch guys. Sansa’s turn means everyone grabs whoever they’re playing down at the Red Keep. Maybe these secondary character work more like the crew from Galactic, or maybe they’re (eventually) full-blown characters in their own right. Dunno.

A few more thoughts on the “Blanket of Ashes” game idea

I’m not set on running this. Playing a ‘song of ice an fire’ style ‘throne war’ game also appeals.

Just off the top of my head, and aimed at gathering up people’s thoughts.

  • I (probably) don’t want to play “Middle-earth, with all the serial numbers left on, except Sauron won”. Inspirations for the setting include Tolkien, but also:
    • A New Hope, for reasons already mentioned
    • The Black Company (especially the first three books)
    • The Midnight rpg setting, though to be honest it’s too d20 tinted for my taste
    • The Mistborn series… except not the magic, in any way shape or form. Eh. Basically I like the idea of the volcanic ash falls. That’s about it.
    • In my little notebook, I have written: “Big Bad – The Chosen” and, underneath that, “the Five.”
  • I like the idea of magic being unstable/on the wan as a result of the Big Bad winning. Burning Wheel Gold’s changes to sorcery reflect this really well.
  • Magical items ‘tainted’ every so slightly due to most of the big bad’s  power being in an artifact. The constant balancing act of ‘this makes me more of a badass, but also makes me more susceptible to the wiles of the Enemy’ seems fun. Most precious of all would be those items that escaped that taint.
  • I also like the idea that a change to the status quo (magic coming back) likely makes some of the enemy more powerful as well.
  • I like the idea the not everyone (PCs included) think revolution is a good idea, or even necessary.
  • I like Burning Wheel for this especially since they cleaned up a lot of the ‘rim’ systems like Fight and Range and Cover.
  • It’s important, I think, for the events that led to the current state of the world to have happened far enough in the past that the true facts are muddied, if not outright forgotten/supressed. Anyone who was actually around at the time (undead, elf, orc, whatever) is in hiding, stopped caring, doesn’t benefit from the truth being known, or all three.

Would it be worth it/fun to do a Lexicon world-building kind of thing to flesh things out… it amuses me that any entry that says “this is what happened” might/could/would be incorrect to a greater or lesser degree.

A Blanket of Ashes

So I’ve been doing those things that lead to lots of nifty ideas ricocheting off each other — namely “reading stuff” and “talking to Kate” — having done so, I’ve got this pile of stuff I feel like hashing out in public.

I’d like to run a game, right? And I’d kind of like it to be big game — one of those epic tales with kingdoms rising and falling and like that. I imagine this is due in part to what I’ve been reading — A Song of Ice and Fire and Tolkien (again) and things like that.

Maybe I just want to roll some dice.

I like the Game of Thrones stuff — it’s fun. I know Martin based the setting on something he used to run for a tabletop RPG, so it makes sense that it tickles that part of my brain. (I like to imagine that the game he ran was actually people playing Ned Stark and Robert and those guys, back when they were young and taking over the Seven Kingdoms, and that he ended up writing the Game of Thrones story instead of running it because none of his old players could get super excited about playing their characters’ kids hopelessly fucking everything up beyond all recognition.)

It would be fun to run that kind of broad-reaching game with noble-borns (throne wars are fun) and maybe some kind of troupe-play where everyone has secondary characters they can play when the camera shifts to someone who happens to be 500 miles away from where your main guy is at. Reminds me of the way Galactic handled different starships, captains, and their crews. Also (maybe) it makes it easy to have a lot of players without caring if everyone can show up for every session, because you’ve got a big cast to work with. I did that with Spirit of the Century for a while, and it worked. Kind of.

That seems like kind of a cool game to play.

I got to thinking about it, though, and I realized one of the things I really liked about the second Martin book (Clash of Kings) was the idea that magic was coming back.

It seems like a really simple thing, but in that genre, it’s really quite unusual — in fact it’s backwards. If you look at Tolkien (which kind of formed the template for epic war fantasy stories for a LONG time), the idea is there’s good, there’s evil, there’s some magic, but the magic is weaker/subtler than it used to be back in the Age of Whatever, and when everything is all said and done and the good guys win, magic is going to pretty much go out of the world and we’ll be left with the plain old boring rules we all understand. There are many examples of this.

That sort of setting is where Game of Thrones starts — it’s really your basic “no-magic medieval society” default. There’s tales of magic and stuff, from the old days, but almost no one really really believes them anymore. Alchemists have these spells that let them make crazy-ass super-powered Greek fire, but that’s just Greek fire or something — it’s not MAGIC. Someone says they have a magic pendant that makes the wearer immune to poison and people kind of smirk behind their sleeve. I mean, we aren’t savages, are we? Surely we don’t believe any of that nonsense.

And then Something Changes and those old spells start working a lot better. Or… you know… just start working at all. It’s gradual, and it’s not (for many people) a central plot point, but it happens.

Wouldn’t it be cool if destroying the One Ring had put all that confined magic back into the world?

So anyway, I got to thinking about worlds where the magic has kind of gone away, and no one really believes it anymore, except for a few people who live in weird places.

There’s a fun-sounding game setting called (I think) Midnight that was kind of a big deal a few years ago. The elevator pitch for this setting was “Sauron won, and he’s in charge of everything now.”

I was talking with Kate about this, explaining why I thought this was kind of a really cool idea — what if the bad guys had won, right? And a whole bunch of time had passed with the bad guys in power, and then you start the story there.

And she says, “Like the first Star Wars movie.”

And I kind of shake my head and say “Yeah, kind of, I guess, but…”

Then I stop and think about it and realize that it’s not “kind of”; that’s exactly the situation — the bad guy’s won, they’ve been in power a long time, and we start our story there — it’s just never described that way.

Mash-Up

So here’s a fun little exercise. Combine that with the dying magic thing.

You know what’s interesting about A New Hope? There’s very little Force use. Vader chokes one guy. Ben ‘senses’ a bunch of stuff. Vadar ‘senses’ a bunch of stuff. There’s a lot of sensing. There’s damn little space-telekinesis. Vadar’s scary because he’s ruthless, is made of a lot of robot parts that let him pick guys up one-handed and snap their neck, and has a laser sword. His big contribution to the final battle in the first movie is as a fighter pilot.

People mock the force. They don’t believe in it. No one who can do anything with it does very much. Ben’s biggest force trick in the first movie? Dying.

What if it was that way because the Force itself had grown weak? Maybe it really is just mumbo-jumbo at that point in the story. Maybe it’s like a well you have to keep primed, and with all those Jedi dead during the Clone Wars, and just like four living force users left, there just isn’t that much mojo left.

Then the Force start waking up. Maybe because the by-blow of one of the living force users grows up enough to start using the force himself — maybe because Ben died and poured all his mojo back into the well — whatever: the magic starts flowing again, and up until that happens, Vadar is left tossing guys around with his robot arm, swinging his glow stick back and forth, shooting guys with his custom fighter, and sensing things.

With me on this so far? Cool.

Now take that situation, except the Emperor is Sauron, Vadar’s a Nazgul, and all those skeptical imperial generals are Uruk-hai who don’t really have any use for hokey religions anymore, not since the Old Kingdom of Good got its teeth kicked in five hundred years ago.

Evil won. It won so long ago that that people don’t really believe there was ever a time when they were free. The Good King? Wizards? All those whimsical creatures like “dwarves” and “elves” and “horses”? Those are nice stories that are going to get your hopes up and get an overlord’s whip in your face. The sky’s always been that color. The mountains have always burned. We’ve always had to figure out a way to find clean water and grow food under a blanket of ashes. Just keep your head down and do what you’re told. That’s the way the world is.

Until something changes.


Kate wants there to be a secret society of female warriors, plotting the downfall of the Wight Lords.

Life in Eve: Something Else #eveonline

I drop onto the couch and stare at the massive screen mounted on the wall of my quarters.

Too much information, and none of it useful. Where’s the off switch?

Hell, where’s the remote?

“Aura?”

“Yes, pilot?”

“Channel broadcast please. Echo to Milcomms. TLF. BSB. Message follows:”

Ty > Anyone up to any shenanigans? I’ll take anything but another infrastructure Hub bash.

I lean back and closed my eyes to block out the massive but blessedly mute screen. On the one hand, I was tired, but it was more the sort of tired you got from doing the same thing over and over, which described the last 24 hours pretty well. Four (or was it five) infrastructure hubs had died, replaced with our own, and while the Oracle battlecruiser I’d brought to the last few had made the process a bit less annoying than the dozens of bomber runs from yesterday, it was still a mental drain. I was more restless than worn out, but wanted to do something — anything — else.

“Transmaritanus requesting private channel connection, pilot.”

“Let him in.” I smirk. This should be good; Trans was a pretty good poster child for ‘something else.’

“Yo.” Trans’s voice was, as usual, distant and tinny, his words rushed. “I’ve got a fleet I can maybe get you in, but you need to shut up about it. It does not exist. If you talk about it out in public, I will burn your fields and villages, okay?”

“Who is this? How did you get this number?” I replied. “I don’t know what a ‘fleet’ is, and I certainly don’t know anything about one forming up.” I cut comms and crossed my fingers.

Working my way up out of the ‘entry level’ chafe in the TLF war effort was an ongoing chore — one I’d been engaged in for almost a month. Tedious, albeit fairly simple: be active on comms, don’t be a moron, don’t be a dick, answer what questions you can, no matter how repetitively they’re asked by the constant influx of new pilots (nevermind that I’d actually taken the time to go and find the answers myself), and just try to use your head.

Being able to mute pilots who are either too stupid to learn or too bitter and nasty to add anything to the conversation had helped immensely.

Eventually, one of the few well-respected veterans who still had the intestinal fortitude to spend time in general Milchat had decided I might be worth spending a little more effort on, and gave me access to a private channel he used for pulling ‘potentials’ into fleets that, while not ‘open’, per se, weren’t entirely closed to all strangers. I’d gone from being one of the unwashed hippies camping in a cheap tent out on the lawn to being a semi-respectable stranger standing in the entryway, trying not to track mud on the tile.

Through Trans’s channel I’d organized or been invited on a few very small operations, but this fleet sounded like a bigger deal.

Assuming he could get me in.

Several minutes passed, and I was about to write the whole thing off as a false positive, when Aura chimed.

“Fleet invitation incoming, pilot. Would you like –”

“Accept!” I cut in. “Accept.” A new channel ID opened on the giant screen, with fleet information. Tech2 frigates and destroyers… twenty pilots in fleet…

Heading to… null-sec?

“Ty, are you familiar with the Curse region?”

I wonder if living there for six months counts. “More than a little. What do you need me to bring?”

“Got anything fast?”

I can’t help but smirk.


Lessons learned:

Sometimes it can be fun to go back to old stomping grounds. A great night. Killed fifteen or sixteen ships and took on some really impressive groups (one with a pair of Basilisks for logistic support) with a pilot of assault frigates and destroyers. Only lost two ships the whole night.

Best of all: invited to a couple new comms channels to ensure I’d be in the loop for future activities. Awesome.

Life in Eve: A Quick Thought on the Mate War #eveonline

My Internet is out, so I’m writing this on my phone and don’t have the time, patience, or keyboard to write out a long explanation of “the Mate War” going on in Eve right now. This post explains it sufficiently and briefly.

The tl;Dr version is that one guy, already on the defensive for screwing up, chose to change the subject during his dressing down by claiming that being called ‘mate’ was a comment on his sexuality, and declared war on a well-liked Alliance in game. This has backfired on him a bit.

Don’t get me wrong: parts of the situation are very funny.

Here’s what I don’t think is funny.

He’s (of course) being roundly mocked for misinterpreting ‘mate’ and declaring war over it.

But no one questions the idea that he’s doing it because someone implied he was gay. People snicker and say ‘no one called you gay, dude.’ No one’s saying ‘so what if they did?’

How is it that being called gay is worth wardeccing over in the the first place? What kind of sorry, 1980s high school locker room are we in, that none of us even question that?

Life in Eve: How it Goes #eveonline

“Any pilots available to help us knock down a couple infrastructure hubs? We’ve got a few ready to fall, and a good defensive fleet, but we need more damage on the structures.”

I hesitated, but the guys putting this call out sounded as though they knew what they were doing, and wouldn’t randomly give enemy pilots access to voice comms.

“This is Ty, I’m in a bomber and I’m available.”

“Perfect, I’ll send you an invite to fleet.”

“Sounds good. Where am I headed?”

“First target is Haras.”

Life in Eve: Tripped and Fell into the Captain’s Chair #eveonline

“So I accidentally ended up in charge of a fleet last night, and –”

“Stop,” CB holds up a hand. “I don’t have have a drink yet.”

“You need a drink for this?”

“You got put in charge of a fleet ‘by accident’?” He makes a face. “Yeah. I do. Where’s your port?”

“Port?” I raise my eyebrows. “What makes you think I have port?”

“You might put the rum out where everyone can see and fly Ruptures til your pod goo turns orange,” CB mutters, peering into a low cupboard, “but Gallente goes bone deep.” He buries his arm up to the shoulder in the compartment, searching by touch.

“That is a crude stereotype, and I’m offended by the –”

CB pulls a small, dark, dusty bottle out and thunks it down on the table in front of me. “What was that? I couldn’t hear you through all the being right.”

I give him a sour look. “Corkscrew and shot glasses are up on the third shelf.”

“Classy.”


CB smacks his lips. “Fruity, with a spice finish.”

“What does that even mean?”

He slides the empty glass across the table. “Means reload me.”


“So this guy, I don’t even know his name –”

“– doesn’t matter –”

“– doesn’t matter. He’s screaming on milcomms that he’s gotten the infrastructure in Haras down this close to vulnerable, but he’s got to stop and get some rack time, and if he comes back and the system hasn’t been broken down, the Hub taken out, and the whole system put back in Minmatar hands, we’re all terrible and should self-destruct into the sun.”

“And you listen to him because…”

I shrug. “It was something to do?” CB just looks at me, so I keep going. “Anyway, I wrap up the thing I was doing and when someone else asks what’s going on, I say ‘Well, I guess I’m going to go over to Haras and finish making it vulnerable for an attack on the Hub.’ I don’t make a big deal of it, but then some other guy opens comms and says “YES WE HAVE TO DO THIS IT IS TIME LET’S GO LET’S GET MOTIVATED LET’S FLEET UP SIGNAL ME FOR FLEET INVITATIONS I WILL ESTABLISH VOICE COMMS.”

“So of course you signed up right away.”

“No, I pretty much ignored him,” I reply. “He was annoying.” I take another drink. “But… when I got to Haras –”

“Where’s Haras?” CB interrupts. “I feel like I know that one.”

“We’ve hit plexes there before,” I answer. “It’s a dead-end system, kind of out of the way. Only one gate in or out, which…” I make a face. “Well, that’s relevant later.”

“So you get there.”

“So I get there,” I continue. “And there’s probably a dozen of us in system, and they’re all in the loud guy’s fleet, and it sounds like more are on the way from all over. He’s been organizing it on the public milcomms, so a lot of new guys who want to do something — anything — are heading over with all the key requirements for a classic kitchen sink fleet.” I roll my head on shoulders. “I figure the only thing worse than being in that fleet is being the only guy in the system who isn’t in the fleet, so I signal and get an invite.”

“And they put you in charge?”

“Well, no.” I pour another half-glass. “But it’s a mess. The guy hasn’t set up any squad commanders. Or wing commanders. Or, well, anything. There are guys in the group who have that level of training, and he’s not using them.” I shrug. “I mean, it’s not his fault. I if I hadn’t spent all that time in OUCH, I wouldn’t know anything about how to set up the hierarchy for a fleet, but I did, so I do, and I start giving him suggestions on who needs to go where.”

“And…”

“And he just says ‘Here I made you fleet boss so you can move people.'”

“And that’s when you got put in charge.”

I shake my head. “He was still Fleet Commander at that point.”

CB makes a rude noise. “When the shit hits the fan, people don’t listen to the new OFC; they listen to the sergeant who actually knows how to get shit done.”

“Whatever.” I roll my eyes, though in hindsight I can see he’s right. “Anyway, I get everyone sorted out, and all the squads and wings are rolling, and we’re up to about twenty, twenty-five ships, with more on the way, and someone says ‘Now what?'”

“And they all turn and look at you.” He smirks. “It’s a burden being right all the time.”

“I’m sure.”

He tosses back his glass in one shot. “This is why I don’t help people, as a rule. It leads to… things.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Things?”

He waves his hand around. “Things. Shut up.”

“Anyway.” I shake my head at him. “Yeah. They say ‘So what are we doing, Ty?’, and I tell a couple of the guys in frigates to hit the complexes and bring the infrastructure the rest of the way down.” I take a drink. “That actually works, and we start working on the Hub itself, trying to get at the guts of the thing the old fashioned way, but we have the wrong ships — too many small fast things, and not enough big guns — we probably can’t even break through the Hub’s shields, and even if we can it’s going to take hours, not minutes, and some of these guys have never even been out to shoot a tower or POCO before, so they’re already bitching it’s taking too long and it’s only been five minutes.”

“You need different ships.”

“Yeah, and it’s ten or fifteen jumps to get anywhere were we can swap, and…” I tap the edge of my glass “… a bunch of them can’t fly anything but the frigates they’re in.”

“Where are the vets?”

I shrug. “Except for one guy I can name, and two others who spend their free time shitting up the channel with hate and stupidity, they don’t listen to milchat. Half the time I can’t blame them, because it’s bad; the other half, I think that it’s bad because they never interact with anyone in there. Anyway, the guys that are going to answer an all-hands call for a fleet are going to mostly be new pilots.” I lean my head back against the wall. “And by this point, there’s the problem with the gate camp.”

“The –” CB stops himself. “What happened?”

“One of the stragglers coming to join us tells us that there’s about thirty ships on the other side of the gate — our only way out, by the way — and they’re a pretty good composition for keeping us trapped in here for hours.”

“That’s a problem.”

“That’s actually half the problem.”

CB rubs at his temples. “Keep going.”

“Well, we had a hurricane on the out-gate, but far enough away from the gate itself that we think maybe we can drop on it and kill it before his buddies jump in and back him up, so I call for a fleet warp to the tackling frig that’s right on top of him.” I tap my glass again, and he refills my glass, then his own. “Just as we get into warp, the lead guy calls out multiple contacts.”

“How many’s ‘multiple’?”

“I ask him that,” I reply, “and he says ‘sixty or so’.”

“Sixty.” CB tastes the port, then sets it down. “That is more than thirty.”

“It is.” I toss the drink back, and unlike CB I don’t bother tasting it. “Turns out there was a cloaked up Arazu right off the gate, and the other thirty ships are a black-ops bomber fleet that just got cyno-jumped into the system, right on top of us.”

CB hisses through his teeth. “You jumped into that?”

“And jumped right the hell back out,” I reply. “Not everyone made it, but most of us did, and after that it was just cat and mouse for a couple hours. The one thing –” I held up a finger “– the one thing that made it almost worth while is that they had about fifty pilots tied up with keeping us in the system or hunting after us, so we wasted wasted more of their time than ours.”

CB looks at me, his face expressionless.

I look back, mirroring him.

“Did they buy that crap when you said it to th–”

“I have no idea,” I smirk. “No one called me on it, though.”

“So you play hide-and-seek for awhile.”

“Yeah, and deal with spies.”

“How do you know there were –” He cuts himself off. “Nevermind. Always spies.”

“Yeah.” I nod. “In this case, there were a few clues, like a couple of the enemy ships always knowing exactly where to warp to on our safe spots.” I pause, savoring the next part. “And of course when war target pilots log into our voice comms.”

“What –” CB catches himself. “Please be joking.”

“Nope.” I smile. “It was actually kind of funny. The voice comms were being run by that same guy who didn’t know how to organize the fleet, and one of my squad commanders has just said something like ‘You know, you REALLY need to put some kind of security on these servers, or anyone with the info could just jump on here and raise hell.’ No sooner had he said it than we get fifteen simultaneous new connections to the voice comms server, all named some kind of variation of either Susan Black or Hans Jagerblitzen. Before we know what’s going on, they all jump into our channel and start clucking.”

CB shoots up from his chair. “You’re shitting me.” His voice is a mixture of laughter and disbelief. “You are shitting me right now.”

“Some of them had echo effects on their voices.” I’m struggling to keep my voice level, because it’s funnier that way. “Some of them were autotuned, so it sounded like some kind of song, but yeah… clucking.”

“That’s…” he shakes his head, still chuckling has he sits. “That’s actually pretty fucking funny.”

I grin. “It took the guy in charge of comms about thirty seconds to get everyone blocked and lock down the channel, but after that?” I nod. “We all cracked up pretty hard.”

“So’d you all die?”

“Nah.” I pick up the port bottle, find it empty, and raise an eyebrow before tossing it in the bin. “We got a scout set up on the other side of the gate, and when another milita fleet roamed through and got their attention, we slipped out — didn’t even lose any of the shinier ships.”

“So…” CB ticks points off on his fingers. “Didn’t capture the system, got camped in, got black ops dropped, infiltrated by spies, comm security broken by chickens…” he presents his hand to me, five digits extended in all directions, then picks up his half-empty glass and raises it. “Successful fleet command?”

“Could have been worse.” I pick up my empty glass and tik it against his. “Could have been boring.”

Life in EvE: Poking Around in the Corners #eveonline

Before I forget, I found an old map of the Caldari-Gallente warzone, and modified it to show all the locations of faction warfare mission agents. Click to embiggen.

Don't complain to me about the red/green color choices -- I didn't make the map, I just colored in some of the dots.

95% of the time, I use dotlan’s faction warfare maps, but they don’t show mission agents in any useful way, so when I’m planning a route around a warzone to pick up a bunch of missions to run all at once, this (and the Minmatar/Amarr version of same thing) is what I use. Maybe you will use it. Maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s a thing that exists that didn’t before. La.

Now then…


Emboldened by my unprecedented two-solo-wins-in-a-row kill streak, I’ve returned to the Bleak Lands region in a Rupture-class cruiser, fit in a way that lets me pretend I’m flying a much more expensive Vagabond heavy assault cruiser. My plan (such as it is) involves roaming around the area, looking for war targets up to and including small (very small) gangs of frigates, destroyers, or maybe a cruiser or two of a favorable type.

It’s a fine plan, and I locate a number of likely targets, but they are (wisely) capturing “minor” complexes, which restrict ship access in such a way as to prevent me harassing their frigates with my cruiser. This is the warzone functioning entirely as intended — I’m simply on the ‘prevented’ side of an equation that far more frequently works in my favor, so it’s hard to get very frustrated.

While I roam, I hang out, quiet and idle, in general militia voice comms. In the ‘lobby’ channel with me is one of the senior members of the militia, also quiet, and I’m inclined to leave things that way — it’s hard enough to find one of the vets to talk to without driving them out of the public channels every time they show up. I’ve no burning conversation topics to cover, anyway; it’s not as though we’re actually in the same system or any–

Actually? It seems we are. Now that’s a weird enough coincidence that I feel like mentioning it, and strike up a casual chat with the other pilot as we both go about our business in the system.

The ‘Lobby’ doesn’t usually see a lot of actual voice traffic — it’s really just a stopping point as you connect to comms and figure out what channel you actually want to use — but our conversation encourages others to linger, and before long several experienced militia pilots are discussing their plans for the night, and I’m presented with something better to do than poke ineffectually at frigate-sized complexes I can’t enter. Several veteran members of the militia are getting ‘shot up’ in the Huola and are asking for everyone in the voice comms to grab a ship and join them. The system’s fairly far from my current location, but I hardly have anything better to do, and head that way.

It’s another false hope, however. First, as the fleet forms, it’s clear that it will consist entirely of battlecruisers and battleships — my cruiser, while a great deal of fun to fly, has left me first over- and now under-dressed for the evening’s festivities.

Second, the potential fight develops before I actually reach the system, and by the time I arrive it’s all over but the clean-up, with ships exploding on both sides of the brawl. I’d finished the trip anyway, in hopes that some follow-up ‘thing’ might develop, but everyone seems content to drift about in their big ships, largely stationary.

I'm very bad at waiting.

I check the local channel, and notice that there’s still a single war target in system. With nothing else to do, I proceed to investigate the various Minmatar complexes currently active in the system, to see if any are being vandalized by the enemy pilot. Pretty unlikely, given how many pilots we have nearby, but at least it gives me something to —

Well hello.

I land on a Complex gate and double take as directional scan shows me a Caldari Navy Hookbill frigate within. That’s pretty ballsy by itself, but more surprising is the fact that this particular complex isn’t a ‘minor’ — it’s actually large enough for cruiser-class ships to enter.

(Actually, now that I think about it, the pilot is probably still pretty safe, since all the other militia pilots in system are in big ships that couldn’t get into this complex either. My Rupture is actually the only allied ship in system that can get inside. That’s convenient.)

I activate the acceleration gate, but I don’t get my hopes too far up — the Hookbill is a quick, nimble ship, and I’ll land inside the complex at least 60 kilometers from his location — once he sees me come in, he’ll have plenty of time to warp away before I can get anywhere near him. I’ll chase off a war target and prevent some damage to the system’s infrastructure, but it’s highly unlikely that I’ll get a fight.

Unless he charges me as soon as I land.

Which is exactly what he does.

The pilot's enthusiasm is... surprising.

The fact that he’s charging straight into the fight actually gives me pause, and I check to make sure I haven’t confused the Hookbill with some other ship — certainly, a well-skilled pilot could use the frigate to take out a cruiser, but that’s a bit unlikely (at least in the case of this particular Rupture, which is specifically fit to do well against smaller targets). Maybe the other pilot is one who’s confused? Did he see a minmatar-made ship with an “R” class name and assume it was a Rifter frigate?

I don’t have time to ask him, because he’s dropped into an orbit and opened fire, at which point I put two cruiser-class energy neutralizers on him, drain his capacitor dry, shut off all his active modules, and blow up his ship — all in approximately ten seconds. GF?

I’m not going to look a gift fight in the mouth, and it’s a fine way to end what would otherwise have been a fairly frustrating night, but I can’t help but be a bit confused by the whole thing.

Life in Eve: Continuing Streak #eveonline

After a week spent visiting Bre and Berke in the wormhole, I’m a little glad to stow Zecora back in my main hangar and pull out Radagast for another turn through some enemy complex assaults. This time, I decide to follow a new route that I’d spotted reviewing New Eden maps while up in the wormhole — a series of jumps that will bring me into what feels like the back door into the Caldari/Gallente warzone; closer to the the system of Tama than Old Man’s Star, where I usually start things off.

My impression that I’m sneaking in through a less-used entrance is borne out by the level of activity I see in the systems I pass through — it’s definitely quieter, especially as I move into the clusters of systems equidistant from any safe harbor.

Since there’s no one around, let along anyone interested in a fight, I kill some time (and Caldari grunts) capturing minor complexes as I move from system to system. I finish off three in three different systems, then jump and start work on a fourth before I finally spot a war target entering the system.

This is one of those times when I’m glad for the way the complexes are restricted based on the size of the ships trying to enter. Thanks to that, any ship (well most ships) that ridiculously overmatch me will be unable to get in through the door, so to speak. Also, if I pay attention to the scanner, I should have ample time to see what an opponent might be bringing to the fight, and decide how I want to handle it.

Meanwhile, I continue to perform the complicated maneuver that allows me to capture the complex.

The new pilot shows up pretty quickly, and it seems he’s flying a Kestrel. Like the Merlin, the Kestrel is a Caldari design, one that strongly adheres to the traditional Caldari “our missiles will blot out the sun” philosophy, unlike the turret-based Merlin. Fit with light missile launchers (as it usually is), the Kestrel can zip around out at ranges where most frigates can’t hope to return fire, doing moderate to weak damage that nevertheless can get to you damn near anywhere on the field. Their downside is they are basically made from balsa wood and extra thick grocer’s paper.

I think over my options and reload my guns with tech2 “Spike” ammo. Although the damage on the high velocity, long range ammo is far less than the heavier short-range options, it’s the best option I have for the beginning of this fight, as it will let me hit the Kestrel from almost as far away as it can hit me — something I’m hoping the other pilot doesn’t expect.

Now I just have to see if he’s going to come in and play.

I'm very bad at waiting.

Finally, he decides to take the plunge, and drops into the complex about 65 kilometers away. I turn and start to fly away from him like a good little scared rabbit, hoping he’ll pursue, and he does. Thanks to the way I have the ship configured, I can lock his ship almost out to 60 kilometers, but I let him get closer, only pulsing my afterburner to make sure I don’t pull away from him. Once he’s inside 45 kilometers, I lock and start shooting, even though I’m outside the effective range of my guns — I want him to see him hitting him for very little damage at the outset, to increase the odds that he’ll discount my damage as a credible threat at this range. For him to reliably get missiles on me, he’ll be inside 35 to 30 kilometers, and at that point, the Spike ammo should shine.

Everything pretty much falls into place, the only serious mistake I make being to leave my ancillary shield booster running instead of pulsing it intermittently. Regardless, my opponent doesn’t seem to mind that my shield isn’t moving, and continues to work on me. I burn straight away from him, watching his shields, and when they drop to just above 30% — the point where a Kestrel pilot might seriously consider leaving — I stop firing.

Like the pirate Merlin pilot from a few fights ago, the Kestrel pilot is trying to orbit me, and has thrown himself into a long elliptical, since I’m basically as fast or a bit faster than he is. As I shut down my guns, I reverse my path 180 degrees, overheat my afterburner to close range, ready my warp scrambler and web, and reload short range ammo in my guns — a process that takes about 5 seconds.

That’s almost exactly how long it takes me to get into range, since his ship has been thrown into a slingshot straight at me, thanks to that elliptical.

The Kestrel’s autopilot – no doubt still trying to hold an orbit of 30+ kilometers, has thrown the ship around and is trying to pull away from me as I close in, but when the web lands, all chance of that goes out the window. I slide into an orbit of my own, resume firing, and convert the missile ship to a fiery explosion in four volleys.

This time, I manage to keep my ship from coming to a dead stop afterwards, too, so I can be taught!

The pilot tosses me a quick if somewhat half-hearted salute over the local comms as he warps his pod away to the nearest gate, and I have my second 1v1 victory behind me.

Life in EvE: Achievement Unlocked #eveonline

“How would you like the Merlin fit, Pilot?”

I shrug to myself. I hardly ever fly Caldari ships, unless the Gila counts  (it doesn’t), so I pull up some fitting schematics Bre had sent me and started reading off the module list.

“Three 125mm rail guns. Damage Control Unit, Magnetic Stabilizer, and Overdrive. All tech 2. Ditto for the afterburner, but we don’t need tech2 for the warp scrambler or the web so just see what we’ve got in the closet.”

“Affirmative.”

I scan Bre’s notes, which called for a shield extender, but there’d been some new tech released on the market that I wanted to try out. “Drop one of those new Medium Ancillary Shield Boosters on there too, and re-rig the shields for stronger resists to any damage type where it looks like I’ve got holes.”

“Affirmative.”

I watch the assembly drones do their work in my hangar, and like what I see. The Merlin isn’t the fastest frigate out there, but the afterburner would push me close to nine hundred sixty meters per second if I treated it nice, and well over a klick per sec if I used the spurs a bit. The rails didn’t hit that hard, but if I followed Bre’s “instructions for not going boom as much”, I’d be sitting pretty far outside any comparable enemy ship’s ability to return fire, while still keeping it pinned and whittling it down.

“Ship assembled, Pilot.”

“Register it with flight control as Radagast, and let’s go.”

“Destination?”

I wave my hands. “Somewhere in the Bleak Lands. I don’t much care.” I’m tired of trying to fight pilots while Caldari troops throw missiles at me. If I could stay moving, Amarr troops assigned to complex defense would miss. A lot.

Thanks to the placement of our home base of operations, I’m in the warzone quickly (we’re roughly equidistant from either), and start poking around a bit, until I find system with no complexes open and an Amarr war target in the local channel. No stations, only one star gate. I scan for and warp to the minor Amarr complex, which should restrict complex access to tech1 frigates like my Merlin, destroyers, and faction frigates — just the thing to filter a fight.

I still haven’t entered the complex, because I can see the other pilot on a ‘short’ d-scan (limited to a three hundred sixty degree scan with a range of 21 million km), but he’s not dropping on the acceleration gate, and he’s not already inside the complex. In short, I can’t get him to engage, which probably means he wants me to enter the complex and get a bunch of Amarr goons shooting at me first. I understand: this is New Eden, where ‘fair’ means ‘I have an advantage.’

“Whatever,” I mutter under my breath and activate the gate that will send me into the complex. I’ll take on the Amarr defenses if it gets me a decent fight.

Time passes, during which I largely ignore the Amarr ships who can’t hit me and destroy the few that can. Sure enough, the enemy builds up to about twenty-five ships and here comes the other pilot, flying an Incursus, which is the main ship I’ve been flying in the Faction War, until today — I feel like I have a very good idea what it’s going to be able to do. It’s scary, but it’s usually short range, and I like this fight for me.

The other pilot likes it too, I guess, probably because my Merlin looks like a disco ball right now with all the Amarr lasers flying around me.

I let him get in to about 15 and try to keep him at about 8km, but I’m a bit faster than he is, so I’m getting away and out of  range of my warp scrambler. I’ve been manually piloting up to this point, but right now it’s just making things harder for no benefit, so I simplify.

“Aura, hold the ship at a range of 6.5 kilometers.”

“Confirmed, 6.5 kilometers.”

The merlin swings around, I drop the web and scram onto the other ship once I slide back into range, and go to work. The railguns aren’t hitting too hard, but he really can’t do much to me at this range, except for his drone, which I ignore — it’s doing a little damage, and the Amarr are hitting me a little because I’m matching his speed instead of maintaining my best transversals, but the Ancillary Shield Booster is easily keeping my shields up — I just hope the fight’s over before the thing runs out of charges.

“Guns are ready for overheat,” Aura reminds me.

“Leave em for a bit,” I murmur, watching readouts and keeping an eye on the Local channel to see if my opponent will get more back up. I’ve flown the Incursus a lot, so I know pretty much how it works. His shields are gone in no time, but the Incursus is usually an armor-tanked ship, often relying on energy-hungry repair modules. I dent his ship a bit, watch him rep, and keep the pressure on so he’s got to use his capacitor booster to keep the lights on. Eventually — sooner rather than later, he’ll need to reload that booster, his repair cycles will lag a bit and —

“There! Overheat!” The rate of fire on the railguns increases dramatically as their barrels start to glow. Diagnotics tell me I’ve punched through the armor into the hull structure in a couple places by the time his reps get back online.

One more cap charger reload like that, and he’s done.

Our speed is all over the place now; he’s starting to think that maybe he wants to get out, but with the web on him and my greater speed even at the best of times, all he’s doing is flailing. The only problem is, keeping range during his flailing means I’m taking more laser fire and my shield booster is working harder — he’s not the only one getting low on charges.

I don’t see the signs of his charge reload yet, but I can feel it coming, so I keep the guns overloaded, push him as hard as I can…

And it’s over. First solo kill. Ever.

“Yes!”

“Bringing ship to full stop.”

I blink. “What?”

“Target ship no longer on scan. No target from which to maintain requested range. Stopping engines.”

“Wha- NO!” I flip the ship back into motion, hauling it into alignment with a celestial in the system — I don’t even care which one, so long as it isn’t anywhere near the place where Aura has basically parked my ship in front of (now thirty) angry Amarr ships. “Align to warp!” The klaxon warning of imminent shield failure whoops behind me.  “And overheat that damned shield booster!”

“That module is out of chargers. Reload?”

“HELL no!” The ASB’s an outstanding defensive module, but the one-minute reload time for the charges would be the end of the ship. “Run it off our primary capacitors.” The drain would be unsustainable, but it should last long enough to get us out of trouble.

It did. Barely.

By the time the Merlin gets into warp, the Capacitor is dry as a bone, and the ship had taken severe armor and structure damage — embarrassing, since the pilot in the ‘real’ fight hadn’t even managed to get through my shields.

Still… alive is good.

Alive is really, really good.


Lessons Learned

Boring fight for anyone else, I’m sure, but I was really really happy with it — the ship did exactly what I was hoping, I didn’t screw anything up too badly, didn’t forget too many things in the middle of the fight (could have overheated the guns sooner, and forgot to overheat the ASB at all until the end), and got my first 1v1 kill. Achievement unlocked, and all that. Fine way to start the day.

Rainbow Dash is pleased.

Life in EvE: All According to Plan #eveonline

Ty sat in his quarters, scratching notes on a digital pad.

If the crappy little Griffin wants to tackle you, solo, he has a plan.

As a matter of fact, the crappy little Griffin CAN jam your Wolf (and then kill it) 95.5% of the time.

If you rebuild an Incursus to counteract Griffin jams and head back for a rematch, the Griffin will avoid you.

If you take the time to buy a set of anti-ECM implants to increase your chances even more, you will not only fail to find the Griffin, you will get jumped by a Thrasher, shredded, and get your escape pod caught on the acceleration gate and destroyed.

You wanted this. You wanted to lose ships. You wanted to learn.

Ty sighed and let the pen drop to his desk. It had been a rough night — lots of solo roaming looking for fights that consistently went poorly, followed by poor sleep and a lot of second guessing. He’d barely caught four hours of rack time, but there was no point in trying to get any more rest, because he wasn’t resting — his mind wouldn’t let him.

“Aura.”

“Yes, Ty?”

“Assemble one of the Merlin flatpacks,” he said, checking the clock. He had obligations today, but there should be just enough time if he got moving right now. “We’re going to try something… different.”


Yeah, that all happened. I let a Griffin tackle me because I figured “Eh, he’s a Griffin, he’s not going to perma-jam me, right?”

Wrong.

Not a great night. Let’s see if it turns around…

Life in EvE: Habits #eveonline

“So how boned are we?” asks CB.

“Boned?” I think about the question for a second. “Oh, the Goon-scam thing?”

“Yup.”

I shrug. “I don’t know if it’s really going to make that much difference.”

“Really.” He doesn’t sound convinced. I know he’d hoped to make a bit of ISK off of the rewards available via the TLF, so his doubt is understandable.

“Well, look at it like this,” I explain. “Basically we get better payouts from the TLF if we control more of the warzone. A lot of that has to do with how much each of our systems are upgraded, and the Goon scam definitely affected that — they pumped resources into our systems to push our net warzone control high, based on system upgrades.” I pulled up the current-as-of-twenty-minutes-ago situation map of the warzone and spun my monitor around to face him. “But any upgrade scheme works a lot better and is a lot easier when we control more systems. Diminishing returns kick on those upgrades in a huge way — it’s a lot easier and less resource intensive to do minor upgrades to five backwater systems than it is to upgrade one system from nothing up to Gold Plated Faucets and Hot and Cold Running Escorts.”

The screen reflected in CB’s glasses. “All I heard out of that is that it’s good that we control a lot of systems.”

“It is.” I turned the monitor back around and pulled up a few other displays. “I mean, we’ve got control of over fifty systems. The Amarr have 11.1 A lot of the system upgrade stuff was because of the Goons cooking the system, but that was five pilots screwing with the Jita market — they didn’t have anything to do with actually capturing systems in the warzone. Hell, as near as I can tell the Minmatar have controlled a majority of the systems for…”

I scrolled through the history of what some some called the Forever War, watching the dips and minor fluctuations in territorial control until it all started to blur together, then shook my head. “… a really long time.”

“So this isn’t going to affect anything.”

“I didn’t say that,” I replied. “Overall warzone control is dropping right now, and if I had to guess, I’d say it’s going to continue to drop for a couple more weeks. Maybe three. Here’s why –” I flipped on the Militia Chat, which poured forth a never-ending stream of requests for fitting advice, queries about available fleets and — a recent addition — dejected moaning about the drop in warzone control.

“Because everyone’s a whining bitch?” CB threw the barest hint of a scowl in the direction of at the wall-mounted speaker. “Turn that shit off.”

I did. “Because people are used to the warzone control just…” I waved my hands like a conjurer “magically upgrading itself every weekend or so, at no cost to themselves. They’ve formed habits. Those habits will take about three weeks to break.”

“Then they’ll stop whining?” I looked at him, and he made a face. “Of course not.”

“Everyone whines. All the time –”

“– and they never stop.” CB pushed himself out of the chair. “Sounds like normal. Let’s go blow some shit up.”


1 — This conversation took place several weeks ago. The day after I got back from ComicCon this week, the Amarr were actually down to four systems. Like most people who pay attention to such things, my assumption is that the Amarr forces have turned their attention to the more lucrative Caldari side of the Caldari-Gallente war, rather than claw out of the fiscal hole they’re currently in. Until some (more) changes to faction war go in, that’s probably the best plan.

Life in EvE: Kiting Only Works if Someone’s Trying to Pull Your String #eveonline

It’s the day after the CB and I lost a couple ships and, perhaps predictably, I’m back in an Incursus, capturing a complex in the same system as yesterday.

Clearly, I was cowed by their 'no plexing allowed' rule.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are no war targets in-system, though I’m not entirely alone; there are couple neutral pilots around — unaffiliated with the war, and (in my experience so far) fairly likely to simply ignore pilots out in complexes and carry on with whatever —

A ship warps into the complex, and Aura’s recognition software immediately paints it a bright and flashy red in my overview display, indicating a pirate with a security rating so low they would be attacked immediately in high-security space.

So much for my experience so far.

The pilot is in a Merlin — a frigate that, like my Incursus, has seen a recent overhaul and some very significant improvements in combat functionality — and it’s closing with some very good speed.

Normally, I’d be so damn happy to have a one on one fight on my hands that I’d probably fling my ship straight at the Merlin and forget to lock my guns, but it’s one of those situations where I’m feeling a serious urge to leave a raincheck. I’m in the middle of a Caldari complex, and for whatever reason, the defenders of this particular plex are really stressing my ship’s defenses; sometimes, I wouldn’t care at all about adding another attacker, but the current flights of Caldari missiles are no joke, and I realize I need to disengage.

The pirate doesn’t seem inclined to let that happen.

As I said, she’s moving quite fast — faster than my Incursus, at any rate, even with my afterburner overheating, and on top of that she’s got a “long-point” warp disruptor fitted and can keep me from escaping from as far as twenty-four kilometers away. The good news is I’m able to keep her far enough away that she needs that long-range disruptor — the bad news is she’s firing railguns, and can still hit me from that far away. Rocinante II sports neutron blasters; far more damage, but something like a tenth the effective range of comparable railguns.

Not that the range of my guns really matters, as I’m looking to get out of the fight, not get further in.

Still, as I tear ass away from the center of the complex and out into open space, everything that’s happened so far is actually giving me some good information and a few ideas. Once upon a time, I used to fly with OUCH – The Open University of Celestial Hardship — a training organization focused on new pilots coming into nullsec for the first time. While with them, I flew a lot of Merlins, and while the ship’s gotten an overhaul, a lot of its utility functions remain the same. Railgun-fit Merlins have always been more common than Gallente ships using those guns, and part of the reason is the fact that the Merlin can fit something like an afterburner, a webifier, a warp disruptor or scrambler, and a reasonably decent shield tank, and basically hold enemy ships at arm’s length and plink away at them at a longer range where the enemy ship can’t do nearly as much damage. It’s called kiting.

Sometimes, especially in small ships, you’ll see people using “orbit” and “keep at range” commands to stay in their sweet spot for maximum effectiveness, rather than trying to manually pilot in the small fast ships that often react too quickly to be handled by a pilot in the middle of combat. Usually, this is fine — the ships will sometimes blow their orbit and readjust, but in general they come about so quickly that the readjustment isn’t a serious problem.

Unless they’re flying against another small, fast ship. Then you can try something called a slingshot.

I’ve been practicing slingshots for awhile, because they’re very useful with a short range ship like the Incursus; the basic idea is to haul ass in a straight line (I was already doing that) and force an orbiting pilot into an elliptical rather than circular orbit — once that happens, the autopilot in the other ship will try to readjust when the orbit sweeps too far out, and will turn and fly straight at you to reacquire the correct range.

That’s when you turn around and fly right at them. If the other pilot doesn’t react in time, you’re right on top of them in a few seconds.

Again, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for right now, but it was close.

My guess was that the other pilot was fairly happy with the current situation, but that in an ideal world, she’d be bit closer, and I’d be futilely trying to chase her down, because that’s how kiting works best. Given that, she’s probably set the ship to orbit at what she’d decided was her ideal range, and the ship’s autopilot was doing everything it could to obey.

I watched, waited for the ship to lag out an extra kilometer, watched its relative velocity to mine drop as the ship came around on me…

…and launched my single combat drone.

This wasn’t such a huge offensive move on my part, but my hope was that it would distract the other pilot for a few seconds as they dealt with the change in our relationship. I was delighted to see that the pilot actually switched targets to the drone — probably knowing it was the only one the Incursus could field and that my long-range offensive capability would be entirely gone if it was taken out — if she was watching the drone, she wasn’t watching me.

I flipped my ship a hundred and thirty five degrees, overheated my afterburner (again), and burned back the other direction with the Merlin forty-five degrees to port. If I’d been trying to close with her, I’d have burned straight at her, but I didn’t want that.

I wanted to get just close enough that her autopilot thought I was too close.

Sure enough, just as I was about to pass by the Merlin, I saw the other ship react to our dwindling range by actually turning away from me and burning out.

I turned another forty-five degrees to starboard, putting the Incursus ass-end to the enemy, and watched as our range streeeeeeeeeeeeetched past 15km, 20, 22, 23, 24…

25, 26, 27, and then 3006, 1,015 and gone, as I warped away.

“Whoa,” the pilot said in local. “Nice flying.”

“Thanks!” I replied. “I would have stuck around, but those complex defenders were beating me up. Another time?”

“Sure,” she replied. “I’m honestly kind of surprised you got away. I need to work on this kiting thing.”

I thought back to my encounters the day before. “Let me give you the names of some pilots you can practice on…”

Life in Eve: Winning #eveonline

[Last week, I was on a trip out of town, and on my flight back, I managed to leave my EvE Notebook (an actual notebook in which I take notes for these posts) on the plane. I contacted their lost and found, got an automated “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” message, and have pretty much given up hope of seeing that particular notebook again. Which SUCKS both because I have to write the next couple weeks of posts using nothing more than my own shoddy memory, and because I was less than THREE PAGES from completely filling up and actually finishing a notebook for the second time in my life. Anyway, I’ve a new notebook, so off we go.]

Rocinante’s engine detonates a split second after my pod ejects and I fling it toward the nearest sun. “Okay, did you get out?”

“Yeah,” CB’s voice is flat.

“Your ship, or just your pod?”

“The pod. What happened back there?”

“Umm… you jumped the acceleration gate and landed on top of a Rupture, who was waiting for you.”

“I thought you’d already gone.”

I shake my head. We had a number of Overview options available, and sometimes I think the one that hides nearby fleet members causes more harm than good. “I hadn’t. I didn’t jump until I realized you had, and by the time I landed, you were —

“Dead.”

“You’re not dead. Your ship blew up. It’s a cheap frigate — we spend more on week of ammo than I did building that ship.”

“I don’t like losing ships.”

“Then we should stop trying to find fights, because we’re going to lose a HELL of a lot more fights than we win. Let’s head back to the base, I have an idea.”

The comms are silent for awhile. “Why’d you say you wanted to go looking for a fight if you thought are odds were so shitty?”

“Our odds are always going to be shitty, unless we start learning.” I reroute my path through Old Man Star to get back to the home system faster, dodging a gate camp in the process. “Only way to learn is fight, and fighting means losing ships. Hell, just getting a fight that isn’t a stupid blob of ships that make the whole thing meaningless is a win, as far as I’m concerned. Getting a fight is the point.”

“Winning is the point,” CB counters. “For pretty much everyone.”

“Yes. Fine. True. Good point.” I enter the home system and aim for the station docking ring. “Lots of guys will fly around with another guy somewhere in the system providing fleet boosts. Or they’ve got a Falcon buddy ready to drop cloak and jam out anyone stupid enough to engage. Sure. Lots of guys, the only reason they’ll take a fight is because they believe they can win, and they won’t take the fight if the odds aren’t totally in their favor. Yes.”

“And?”

“And that’s not me. All I want is a fight — if I get one, I win. Period. Full-stop. Even if my ship blows up, because for me the hard part is just getting the fight.” I look over my ship hangar. “You still have that Rupture you named Huntard?”

“Yeah.”

I swing the hangar arms over to unberth a Vexor. “Hop in — we’re going to go find that guy again.”


“You’re never going to find a fair fight,” CB points out. “Not in New Eden.”

“I don’t –” I cut myself off. “I’m going after a guy in a Rupture with a Rupture AND a Vexor cruiser. I’m obviously not looking for a fair fight — I’m looking for fights that aren’t pointless and stupid, where I can learn something useful.”

“Did we learn something useful in the last fight?” CB asks. “I blew up too fast to notice.”

“We learned we need to communicate better and not make assumptions about what the other guy’s doing.”

“And to not attack Ruptures in frigates?”

“Well…” I shrug. “Not to attack them in a pair of frigates who are trickling in one at a time, yeah. Kind of figure we already know that.”

The last gate looms ahead of us, and we jump.

“He’s still in Local.”

“Yup. Let’s jump up to that acceleration gate again.” We do, but directional scan is clear. I extend the range and swing the beam around. “Ah. He’s down by the station. Stay here, let’s see if I can bait him out away from dock range. I warp down to the station and wave to the Rupture with a couple of my guns, but the pilot ignores the invitation to a fight and simply redocks when his shields start to get low. “No joy.”

“I’ve got another wartarget in system,” CBs voice is already tense. “We should get out.”

“It’s just two,” I reply. “That’s still a good fight for us.”

I get only a grunt in reply, then: “The new guy’s in a Rupture, too.”

“Perfect. 2v2 cruiser brawl. Sounds fun.”

“Sounds like a good way to blow up.”

“Same thing.”

Another grunt.

The two of us warp from celestials to complexes to jump gates in a continual cycle until it seems as though we’ve managed to lure the two other pilots into some kind of action. It’s right about then that a third war target enters the system.

“That’s three,” comments CB. “We should leave.”

I let out a sigh that’s half growl. “He might be travelling through. He might be in a frigate. He might be an idiot. People fight outnumbered all the time. 3v2 isn’t a bad fight. We just –”

“Ruptures on scan,” CB cuts in. “Both of them.”

“Get ready.” We’re on the acceleration gate into a complex both our ships can enter, but I hold. In the few seconds I take to consider our options, I see no reason not to fight the Ruptures right where we are, rather than leading them into the complex.

As the rupture cruisers land, a Falcon force recon uncloaks and shows me why we should have jumped.

“Ruptures are locking me up. Targeting the first — Fuck, I’m jammed.” CB barks. “And scrambled. And gone. Fuck.”

“Fucking falcon.” I’ve managed to get a flight of drones out, and when the Falcon jams me, they take off after the ship in defense of their master, but since I can’t lock him, I have no idea how much (if any) damage they’re doing to the other ship. “Did you get your pod out?”

There’s a second’s delay. “Yeah.”

I barely hear him. On the off chance the Falcon misses a jam or the drones drive him away, I’m trying to stay moving, my armor repair units working into overheat to keep my ship intact in case I get a real chance to fight back.

But I never do, and eventually my second ship of the night explodes.

“I’m out. Let’s head back.”

The local channel lights up.

No plex running in our systems, boys, comments one of the pilots.

“Oh, that’ll work,” I mutter. “Now say ‘please’.” I can’t help but key the local comms. “We weren’t looking for a plex. We were looking for a fight,” I reply. “Pity you brought the Falcon.”

We land on the star gate and jump, so any counter is lost on us.

“We should have just left,” CB grumbles.

“We should,” I reply, “have jumped into the complex. The accel gate wouldn’t have let that fucking Falcon in, and we’d have had a chance.” I grind my teeth, angry at no one but myself. “It was my stupid oversight. My mistake. Sorry.”

There’s no reply. We make the trip home in silence.


Lessons Learned

  1. Communicate. CB and I have known each other for 20 years, and sometimes that means we don’t talk when we should be, and don’t give each other heads up.
  2. Jump the accel gate. It helps filter down the opponents and control the fight, and if there’s a Falcon, it takes them out of the equation.
  3. There’s always a fucking Falcon.
  4. Fuck falcons.
  5. Ships are just ammo. Like ammunition, using a ship means losing the ship, either immediately or eventually. The only ship you’ll never lose is the one you never fly, and what’s the point of that?

Lastly: What you think of as winning is not going to be some other guy’s version of winning. Do the thing you like, enjoy yourself, and that’s winning, for you. It is a game, after all – fun is the point.

I don’t mind losing ships — if I lost an Incursus and Vexor every evening I logged in and never made a single isk the whole time, I could still fly every night for many, many months.

I do mind making stupid mistakes, like not assuming the third guy is flying a Falcon. In hindsight, of course he was in a Falcon.

Still, stupid mistakes are good, because making them means I’m extra motivated not to make the same one again.

Life in EvE: The Best Bad Decisions, part 2 #eveonline

“Our targets are not, probably, going to be other frigates and destroyers.” Icarus’s voice on comms is as calm as he seemed on the militia chat. “We can kill them, obviously, but with the Amarr, especially the new pilots, you can expect they’ll see how many we are and bring way more than that, because they have a lot of new guys who can only fly frigs and dessies, and want a fight.”

It’s a hard point to argue. The “fleet” assembled under Icarus’s command is all of seven ships, most of them frigates: three Rifters, one Punisher, my Incursus, a “Jaguar” variant of the Rifter, and a single Thrasher-class destroyer.

“So…” one of the pilots is fresh into both New Eden and Faction Warfare, but makes up for it by asking lots of good questions. “We’re going for single frigates we can gank and then get away?”

“We looking for Cruisers and Battlecruisers we can kill and then get away,” Icarus replies.

The comms are silent, as if the pilots are trying to decide if he’s joking, but I nod to myself. After flying with Agony and the Open University of Celestial Hardship, taking down big ships with wolf packs of smaller stuff is very familiar ground to be on.

The problem is, of course, finding a target. We’re fast and nimble, but in faction warfare most of your opponents are as well; frigates, destroyers, and the fastest of cruisers are the order of the day, and the Amarr militia is out in force tonight, with our intel channel reporting at least three fleets roaming the warzone with twenty or more pilots, each. We spend close to an hour moving along the front, dodging forces far too big to engage, and having no luck finding our desired targets.

“Everyone hold on this gate,” Icarus comms. “Rez and I will hop into the next system and see if there’s anything good.”

I land on the gate and, rather than sit still (never a good idea in a small ship), nudge the frigate into a close orbit around the gate. Something goes amiss, however, and Rocinante wanders too close to the automated gate, which activates and hurls my ship along its interstellar path.

“Ahh HELL.”

“What?” Icarus responds.

“I j-” I stop myself before I say the one word absolutely forbidden on comms. “I… went through the gate. By accident. Stupid, stupid mistake.”

“Yes,” Icarus replies without rancor. I’m glad for his honesty. “But let’s make something useful of it. There’s still only three of us in system, and
there’s a lot of complexes here, and a war target — see if you can help find him.”

I don’t expect much — probably a fast frigate that will rabbit as soon as any of us get close — but I’m eager to make up for my error. I check my overview and start an in-system warp to the nearest minor complex to see what —

“Check.” It’s Rez, who’s flying our lone destroyer. “I’ve got a Ferox on scan.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s a good target for us.”

“Yeah. I’m — I’m warping to where I think he is.”

“Where’s that?”

“Matar Minor Complex.”

Oh.

“Sure. He’s probably camped the acceleration gate to kill any frigates that warp up there.

Oh. Great.

“Ty, where are –”

“I was already in warp there,” I cut in.

“Is he there?”

“Yes.” The answer comes from Rez and me, as we land and answer in unison.

“Get a tackle. I’m in warp.” Icarus says. “Everyone else, Jump!”

‘Get a tackle’, he says.

“I’ve got a long point!” Rez calls out. His Thrasher is built for longer range combat, so his warp disruptor is able to affect the battlecruiser from over twenty kilometers away, though it’s not strong enough to shut down his microwarpdrive.

“Ty, can you get a scram?” Icarus knows the Ferox isn’t truly pinned down until we can get a proper short range warp scramble on him and shut down his MWD.

“Yeah.” I’m spiraling in toward the massive ship in the Incursus, trying to keep my traversal speeds high enough to stay ahead of the battlecruiser’s guns, but closing more slowly than I’d like and spending way too much time inside his optimal firing range. My overview is a sudden mess as the Ferox disgorges light combat drones — ideal for killing smaller ships — just as Icarus drops out of warp.

“Scratch that, get the drones, I’ll get the scram,” he snaps.

The Ferox’s close-range blaster cannons finally score a hit, shorting out my frigate’s shields and melting half its armor into slag. I let the ship roll with the hit, slipping into the tightest orbit I can manage around the battlecruiser and activating first one, then the second armor repair module. The Incursus may be small, but so are bricks, and the little ship can take a pretty good hit and keep coming, especially if it doesn’t run out of power.

The drones — as small to me as I am to the Ferox — are not so durable, and vaporize almost as quickly as I can target them.

“He’s targeting me,” Rez calls out. Working at longer ranges, he’s going to be an easier target for the bigger ship. “Shields gone. I’m going to lose the point when I drop.”

“I’ve got the scram,” Icarus replies. “Get out if you –”

The sky lights with the detonation of the thrasher’s engines.

“Get your pod out if you can,” Icarus continues as if that was what he meant to say all along. “We’ve got him pinned, everyone get in close.”

Everyone? I look up from my targeting display and see the rest of our small fleet has made the field, using the distraction of the thrasher’s explosion to get close orbits while the Ferox pilot was occupied.

“Drones are down,” I call out.

“Everyone on the Ferox,” Icarus replies. “Wrap this up.”

It takes surprisingly little time.

“He’s not even hitting me,” says the new pilot, his tone half surprise and half suspicion.

“He’s a good target for us,” replies Icarus.

A much bigger, much brighter explosion lights up the sky.

“Well…” one pilot quips. “He was.”

Life in EvE: The Best Bad Decisions, part 1 #eveonline

“Someone call out when you’ve got point on the target!”

The Ferox battlecruiser’s close-range cannons shorted out my frigate’s shields and melted half its armor into slag with the first volley; the massive ship’s bay had already disgorged a full flight of combat drones that were winging my way to finish the work their master had started.

By most anyone’s estimation, even my own, I was looking at the final payout from a series of bad decisions.


The night had started off normally enough, with me and CB hopping from one system to the next in a pair of Incursus-class frigates, following a kind of agnostic target selection scheme that didn’t care the least bit about whether a complex was aligned with Tibus Heth or Empress Jamyl. Unpredictability and the easy mobility of our ships paid off; we avoided the larger gangs and pushed away or annoyed solo enemies unwilling to engage.

Thirtyone Organism > Stop capturing our plexes!

CB snorted into our private comms. “Did he just… scold us?”

“I believe he did.”

Thirtyone Organism > We’ve spent the last two days d-plexing. You’re undoing all our progress!

“Aww, puddin’…” I murmur in my best ‘calming down the toddler’ voice. “It’s okay… take a breath…”

“Now I feel bad.” CB said.

“Really?”

“No.”

I flipped the comms over to local system broadcast as we landed on the jump gate. “Thank you for your suggestion! We will definitely take it under advisement.”

“I’m out,” CB said as we slipped out of the contested systems of the war zone and back into Sinq Laison for the third time that night. “You gonna keep going?”

“Not exactly, no.” I was only barely following our conversation as I scanned back through the militia channel.

“Yeah…” his voice says he knows me better than that. “Try not to lose too many ships in whatever fleet they’re starting up. Or pods.”

“I never said anything about that,” I mock-protested.

“Uh-huh. Good hunting.” The comms went silent, and I fully turned my attention to MilChat.

«Any fleets up?»

I didn’t recognize the callsign on the pilot who’d asked the question, but it hardly mattered; in my limited experience, it was probably the most-asked question in MilChat, and definitely the one that went unanswered more often than not. The channel is open to anyone in the militia, from veteran members of well-recognized corporations to the greenest recruits in the Tribal Liberation Force — an organization whose operational security would be mockable, if it existed. Due to the highly suspect nature of any TLF pilots, the channel is the main comms of the Minmatar war effort in name only, largely ignored by the veterans who seem to see any eager new pilots as potential spies at best, ignorant novices at worst.

By creating our own corporation specifically for enlisting in the war, CB and I had theoretically avoided the stigma associated with joining the TLF, but in practice we’d simply upgraded ourselves from “obvious spies” to “slightly better prepared spies” in the eyes of the veteran Matar pilots, and even with CB on my wing, I shared the rank-and-file’s frustration with finding organized fleets to join.

«I hope so.» Another voice, this one identified on comms as “Icarus”, a brand-new member of the TLF, though his corporate employment history suggested more than a little experience. (Senior Matar fleet commanders would probably read that as ‘experienced-but-lazy spy’.) «I would love to tag along.»

I thought back on my recent patrol with CB and keyed the comms. “Anyone fighting near Oyonata?”

«I’m going to head over there right now,» replied that same voice, cool and calm on the comms.

«What’s over there?» asked another pilot.

I shrugged, out of habit, and hit the comms again. “Dunno about now, but when I went through earlier the local scans showed a lot of purple allies, and a lot of orange war targets.”

«How many?»

“Looked like a sunset.”

«Should we get a fleet together?»

«Yes.» Icarus again, the calm, cool TLF pilot. «Please.»

In response, the comms went silent.

I felt my lips tighten down to a narrow line and pushed Rocinante into motion along the best route Aura could find into the warzone. My fleet command experience is mostly limited to wormhole system defense and listening to Mangala lead a sloshed RvB fleet into the jaws of The Syndicate, but better me than noth–

«Well, fuck it.» It was Icarus again, his tone matching my own mood. «Alright, call out for a fleet invite, and get on voice comms on the following frequency…»

“Huh,” I said to my otherwise empty ship. It’s a rare thing to see someone else step up when things get difficult, especially in New Eden. This guy was promising.

Still, if you looked at the situation the way a Matar veteran might, it looked bad. A fleet full of new pilots, heading into a warzone heavily patrolled by, at last count, no fewer than three fleets at least twice our size. Led by a completely unknown pilot just as likely to be planning a double-cross at the worst moment as he was to be woefully incompetent.

Smart money said ‘flip the comms off and call it a night.’

Smart money is boring.

I sent my id ping into the channel. “This is Ty. Fleet invite, please.”

“Copy that,” my new FC replied. “Welcome to the party.”

Life in EvE: Grumpypants #eveonline

“Okay, the new ship fittings are up in the Corporate Database,” I say, trying not to roll my eyes at the grandiose name for what amounts to a shared spreadsheet only CB and I — the entire ‘corporation’ — can access. “Can you see em now?”

“No.” CB’s answer comes too quickly, so I wait for a full ten-count. “Yes. Now I can.”

“Outstanding. That’s the fitting for all the frigs, DDs, and cruisers we’re likely to need.”

“What the shit is a ‘Grumpypants’?”

“A bellicose fitting I’m playing around wi — wait, why is that up there? That shouldn’t…” I start poking at the file settings.

“Grumpypants?”

I shrug. “It’s a bellicose.”

“You named it Grumpypants.”

“It’s a bellicose.”

His sigh is the sort of thing people usually reserve for Jita scammers and telemarketers. “What are we doing?”

“Dunno.” I sweep the vHUD fitting screens to the side and look past my balcony to the hangar. “Take some plexes back from Empress Jan-jan?”

“Sure. Flying what?”

“Grab your Incursus.”


“That… is a lot of lasers.” CBs voice is tense which, given the number of ships currently trying to melt our tiny frigates into slag, I can understand.

“Doesn’t matter if they can’t track us,” I reply, then clear my throat for the familiar mantra. “Armor is fleeting…”

Very fleeting, if they ever hit us,” he mutters.

“… speed is life,” I finish. “Besides, we could lose both these ships at this point and the TLF will compensate us, and then some.”

“The money’s… not terrible,” CB admits. It’s been several hours, and we’ve spent the time roaming from the Essence region, into The Citadel, then back to Sinq Laison and into the The Bleak Lands, trying to get a sense of both the Amarr-Minmatar and Caldari-Gallente warzones. Technically, only one of them was our problem, but as Gallente and Matar are each allies in the other’s conflict, we must effectively face both enemies, and want to understand the territory as well as we can. In that time, we’d recaptured several Caldari and Amarr minor complexes and both chased and been chased around completely unfamiliar areas of New Eden.

By our definition, a pretty good time.

Our comms chime with another message from the TLF, confirming uplink from the now-captured complex the two of us were just leaving.

“I think I’m going to get some rack time,” CB says.

“Sounds good,” I reply, though I’ve no intention of sleeping just yet. “Back home?”

“Just going to hit a deep orbit out here and sleep in the pod.”

“Don’t get blown up.”

“Same.”

I kill the comms and head back for our high-sec “corporate office” in Sinq Laison — another grand name for a somewhat less than impressive reality — station residential quarters with the bed taken out, replaced with a desk, and our corp logo stenciled on the door. The balcony decant followed by a hot shower is as much ritual as hygiene, and I drop behind the desk and check my to-do list feeling relaxed, if not rested.

“Blue prints,” I mutter to Aura, who responds with a wide vHUD inventory of recently-arrived ship designs, optimized in ways I can barely follow. Someone had been busy out in the wormhole lab.

“Thanks, Bre,” I murmur.

“Command not recognized.”

“Wasn’t talking to you,” I grunt. “Queue manufacturing jobs.” I tap the open air, lighting up three of the schematics. “Merlin. Thrasher. Ten each. Arbitrator on-deck for tomorrow.”

“Confirmed. First project will complete in five hours, seventeen minutes.”

“That’ll do.” I push my seat back, pull a jacket over me like a blanket, and prop my feet up on the desk. “Wake me when they’re done cooking.”

Life in EvE: Evaluating Faction Warfare #eveonline

“I’m not sure about this,” CB muttered, slowly rotating his glass on the table between us.

“You don’t have to be sure about it,” I said. “You’re not doing it. I’m the one –”

“Yeah, well…” he cut in. “I’ve been thinking about it too.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really.”

“Yeah.” His expression, concealed behind his mirrored glasses, was typically unreadable. “It’s nice to set up in a wormhole and say ‘fuck you’ to the rest of the world –”

“Dunno if ‘nice’ is quite how I’d put it.” I murmured.

“But sometimes,” he continued, as though I hadn’t spoken, “I wouldn’t mind shooting someone when it’s more important than ‘Get off our lawn.'”

“Yeah…” My eyes wandered to the small exterior viewport — a luxury in anyone’s general quarters, even on a Gallente station. The angle was good, displaying part of the nearby aqua nebula of the Essence Region and, behind it and further distant, the clenched red fist of Heimatar. “Yeah.”

CB shook himself and straightened in his chair, rubbing at the cable contacts on the back of his neck. “You said they pay any capsuleers that sign up?”

“For capturing enemy complexes or taking out war target vessels, yeah.” I replied. “And there’s always special missions, if you’re inclined.” He gave me a look that spoke volumes even with his glasses on, and I chuckled. “Right. So no missions.” I poked a handheld where I’d been taking notes. “Payouts look like they’re on a sliding scale — if we’re winning, there’s more money to go around. If we’re aren’t…” I shrugged.

CB tossed back the rest of his drink and stood, heading for my already-plundered mini-bar. “Just tell me if we’ll make enough to cover ammo.”


Affordability

As I said, I don’t have a problem with losing ships, and you really do have to lose some to learn stuff, but at the same time I don’t want to just chuck ISK down the toilet — if I can get my education on a budget, then that’s going to make me even more relaxed about diving into a fight.

The interesting thing about the Faction War system is that it (apparently) revolves around the capturing (offensively or defensively) of “complexes” out in the low-sec space that acts as the buffer between warring factions. These complexes come in a number of flavors and (more importantly) sizes, and are basically locked to certain ships classes. The ‘minor’ complexes can – for instance – only be entered by basic tech 1 frigates, tech 1 destroyers, and the tech1-but-slightly-better “navy” frigates. These complexes need to be run to take over a system, and they can only be run by these cheap little ships, which means you are not just allowed but actually encouraged to fly cheap stuff that doesn’t hurt that bad to lose. Nice. I’ve never really felt that a ship that costs five times as much to buy is actually five times as fun to fly, so the chance to fly a lot of the cheap stuff appeals to me, especially since those ships are currently getting rebalanced and in some cases dramatically changed in the near future.

Also, since those complexes are locked to certain ship classes, they become a really good place to engage an opponent, because while he might bring in backup, what he’s not going to do is drop four battlecruisers on your little frigate, because they can’t get inside the complex. You might end up fighting outnumbered, but at least you won’t be the guy that brings a knife to a gun fight.

And pretty much everything you do in Faction Warfare (missions, capturing plexes, and even just blowing up an opponent’s ship) earns you Loyalty points with your faction, all of which can be cashed in for valuable stuff that you can either use yourself or turn around and sell on the market for a decent profit. I’m not sure on the ratios of Loyalty Points to ISK, but the range seems to go from “meh” (for the guys who don’t control much of the warzone) to “OMG this is Wormhole/Incursion-level income.”

In short, you’re flying cheap, fun ships and getting paid well enough to keep flying them pretty much indefinitely.


“What ships do I need to fit out?” CB asked, returning to the table with five miniature bottles and one large glass. “Should I go get the Vagabond?”

“Vaga? Oh, hell no.” I spun my handheld around and slide it over to him, snagging one of the bottles for myself before it disappeared into his tumbler.

A small frown formed above his glasses. “What the hell’s a Bellicose?”

“Original hull they designed the Rapier from.”

“Oh, that. I’ve got one of those…” he waved his hand in the direction of the outer hull of the station. “Somewhere.” He scrolled down the list. “Jesus, it’s all RvB roam stuff. Frigates and DDs and shit. This is what they fly?”

“Ninety percent of the time, yeah.”

“Do we even need to buy anything for this?”

“Fittings,” I admitted, “but the hulls? No. We have enough.”

His eyebrow rose. “What’s your definition of ‘enough’?”

I reached over and scrolled the display all the way to the bottom tally. For a moment, he was silent, then he started uncapping tiny bottles.

“That’s a lot of ships that need blowing up,” he muttered. “Where do we need to move em?”

I smirked and took a drink. “We’re already there.”


Accessibility

One of my goals with the Life in Eve posts is to show people different parts of the game, and (maybe) encourage a new player to give it a try, or bring a veteran player back to check out the new features. I love wormholes, but I don’t think I’d surprise anyone if I said that they are not in any way a good option for a new player.

Faction Warfare, by contrast, might be one of the best options for new players.

  • Easy-to-fly ships: I’ve already mentioned this in terms of cost, but from a training and skills point of view, this is also an appeal — the backbone of faction warfare is made of tech1 frigates, destroyers, and cruisers, which are the first ships you learn how to fly in the game.
  • Easy to afford activity: You’ll lose ships, but you’ll make isk enough to afford those losses and then some. I ran into a pilots a few nights ago who was capturing complexes, solo, and making good money doing it — he was a two-week old player.
  • Location, Location, Location: The low-sec areas where Faction Warfare takes place are, in general, only a few jumps away from the high-sec systems where new players get their basic training. This makes moving ‘close’ to the warzone very easy (even for new players, for whom moving a half-dozen frigates seems terribly daunting), and in many cases a complete non-issue.

“Alright,” CB said, in that precise way he had when he was trying not to slur. “Doesn’t sound like this will completely suck. When’re you going to sign up?”

I looked at him and said nothing.

“You already signed up.”

I nodded.

“Got any intel on what’s going on out there? Where they need us?”

I reached up to the wall panel next to the table and flipped off the ‘mute’ option I’d tapped when he’d first shown up at my door.

“Siseide contested — someone jump in a frig and stop that cap.”

“Wartargets:  zealot and blackbird in Lamaa.”

“Kourmonen system upgraded to Level 4.”

“War targets still in Tararan?”
“Affirmative.”
“On my way.” 

We listened to the chatter for a few minutes. It didn’t let up.

CB stood up and headed for the door.

“Where yah going?”

“Gonna suit up and go help,” he said over his shoulder. “Besides, you’re out of booze.”

The door slid open, then closed, and it was just me and the radio chatter.

“Break break — I’ve got a twenty-five-ship fleet in Eszur, looks like they’re heading our way.”

I looked at the screen, the mustering system flashing only a few jumps away.

“Ahh, hell with it,” I muttered, and ran for the hangar balcony.


Activity

Maybe I’m being a bit bitchy about wormholes, but there are times when having to scan for an hour every evening before you can do something is… a little bit of a momentum killer. Every game needs something for those times when you just want to log in and do something right then, right now, and my first-blush impression is that Faction Warfare offers that for EvE players — it may be one of the best examples of instant-on something-to-do that I’ve seen in the game so far, with options ranging from solo pvp, solo or small group complex running, to gang roams and full-on fleets.

Will it turn out to be everything it seems to be? I have no idea.

But I plan to find out.


For another “first impression” take on Faction Warfare, I highly recommend this essay on Eve Altruist. As usual, Azual delivers a fantastic breakdown of the subject.

Life in Eve: A Good Problem to Have #eveonline

I have way too many ships.

A part of that is sort of a collector habit: there are so many pretty ships in EvE, and I can fly them, so why not own one (or two, or ten) of each?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; the problem arises when you get a ship and, having got it, refuse fly it, because you might lose it. This reminds me of something. Oh yeah…

Unwrap your toys and PLAY WITH THEM.

Now I’m know for a fact that for some players, collecting is the point. That’s fine. It’s a sandbox; play how you like.

But for me, collecting is NOT the point — I want to get better at actually playing the game and exploring all the little nooks and crannies in the sandbox.

You know what everyone tells you to do when you ask how to get better at PvP?

“Get some ships, fly out to low- or null-sec, get in fights, blow up. Repeat.”

This stings a little more in EvE than it does in, say, WoW, where you can learn about PvP quite effectively for no other real cost but time, and actually earn some flavor of currency even if you continually get your ass kicked. By contrast, if you’re fighting and losing ships in EvE, the main ‘gain’ from the experience is knowledge and (if you’re wired to enjoy it) fun — in most any other respect, you’re out of pocket for the loss of a ship.

But you know what? I am well insulated from the pain of that particular sting. Though I’m NOTHING compared to the real traders and money-makers in the game, I find myself able to drop several billion on a wormhole (including all the hardware, tower bits, upgrades, fuel, et cetera) and make it all back in short order, and that’s just liquid assets — I’ve easily got three to five times times that floating in hangars spread out all over New Eden (which, I shouldn’t need to point out, is somewhere I typically spend very little time — those ships are doing nothing but gathering space-dust).

I mean, seriously: how many ships do I really need when I can only fly one at a time?

Clearly, I need to blow some up. It’s time to get some education.

I’ve been trying to get in fights in Syndicate (renowned for its small gang PvP) off and on for a few weeks months, but at the same time I don’t want to get into stupid fights if I can avoid them, just for the sake of losing a ship. So I’ve spent more time learning how and when to GTFO and haven’t really seen many explosions. (Except for when I jumped my Talos right into a seven-man gang landing on the far side of a warp gate. Oops.)

The most interesting thing about these activities has been in the systems between Stacmon (where I’ve left a number of ships for roams with RvB and Agony) and Syndicate — it’s all low-sec space, and thanks to the changes to the UI I’ve become aware of the fact that it’s part of the Faction Warfare system in EvE, which has recently gotten a pretty big overhaul.

I mean, I guess it has. I don’t really understand how Faction Warfare works now, or how it used to work, or… you know… how you do it. I try talking to some of the local NPC Faction Warfare agents, but they won’t have anything to do with me since I’m not “part of the war effort”.

So I do some reading.

And… maybe this is the solution I’m looking for.

Life in Eve: A Modest Proposal for ECM

So, I just thought of this, and maybe it’s been proposed many times before; I don’t know, but I’ve never heard it before, so I’m going to run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

First, the current situation: ECM (Electronic Counter Measures, the specific brand of EWAR favored by the Caldari faction (and some pirates) is surprisingly un-fun. By that, I mean that it’s surprising that CCP hasn’t done something about it, given that pretty much anyone in the company will readily admit that it sucks, if you ask them directly — they don’t talk about it all the time (because generally you don’t want to keep bringing up something bad that you’re not doing anything about), but I doubt you’d find any developers who would waste two breaths actually defending the mechanic.

For those of you who don’t play EvE, the basic idea with combat is that you have to acquire a ‘target lock’ on anyone you want to shoot, basically adding them to a finite list of viable targets from the list of all POSSIBLE targets. (There might be 30 guys nearby that you might shoot, but only maybe 3 to 7 that you CAN shoot, because you’ve locked them.) Similarly, you need to lock anyone you want to do anything beneficial to as well. Also, it’s worth noting that the time it takes to lock ANYONE is (basically) an inverse of their ship’s size relative to yours (little ships lock big ships really quickly, big ships lock little ships really slowly, et cetera).

ECM basically is a magical beam that you hit a ship with and, if you hit them use it on them (it always hits), and you’re within your optimal range (which is quite far) and they haven’t fit any special modules that lower your odds (which isn’t incredibly common in most cases), you have about a 99.9% chance of completely clearing their “target lock” list and (further) making them unable to add anyone back to their list until you deign to stop using the ECM on them. (Some particularly skilled practiced ECM pilots will actually let their ECM lapse on a target, use it on another target for a cycle, then reapply it to the first target just as they’re about done reacquiring their target locks, thus jamming even more targets than they’d normally be able to, so just because you aren’t jammed right now doesn’t mean you won’t soon become jammed again.

Anyway, this sucks. Most people will agree that it sucks to get hit with ECM, because it means you can’t do much of anything during the fight (after 35+ years, EvE has basically reintroduced the generally shittiness of the the original DnD Sleep spell), but my personal opinion is that — if your goal with PvP is to have an exciting fight[1] — it sucks for you even if it’s working on your side, because it makes the fight boring. Anyone can shoot targets that can’t shoot back — there are a number of activities in EvE like that. What I’m saying is that ECM basically turns PvP into mining.

So, most anyone you ask will agree that ECM sucks, and yet nothing changes, probably because no one can think of a solution that doesn’t break the mechanic too far in the other direction (a mistake they’ve already made with other EWAR systems); ECM is ridiculously powerful right now, but because it’s chance-based and thus potentially ‘streaky’, it’s hard to fiddle with it without making it totally useless.

And You Think You Have it Figured Out, Genius?

The idea came to me while I was messing around with the new Ancillary Shield Boosters (which, if you haven’t, you should check out). Basically, the idea behind the ASB is that they’ve combined a Shield Booster (repairs your shields in mid-combat) and a Capacitor Booster (think a high-tech power potion that restores your capacitor and requires you carry around a cargo hold full of ‘ammo’ for the module) into one new module: a shield repair unit that only runs if it has “cap boosters” to run on, which repairs a bit more shield than a typical shield booster, but has a finite power supply and (this is a big deal) takes a full minute to reload before it can be restarted.

(Those of you playing other MMOs may recognize it as a potion cooldown, if you’re so inclined to make the comparison.)

Now, obviously, if you want to run your ship with a sort of “continual repair” kind of tactic, this module won’t work well by itself — a minute of downtime out of every two minutes won’t cut it.

But you CAN use two. It’s hard to fit, but it can be done. The basic idea is that you run one, then start the second one as you begin reloading the first, and keep going back and forth like that, with an ‘oh shit’ option to run both at the same time for about 50 seconds of tanking glory.

Yeah… see, I said “50 seconds”, not “1 minute”, didn’t I?

See, the diabolical thing about the ASBs is that a full load of cap booster ammo will keep the booster running for 50 seconds, but it takes a full minute to reload, so sooner or later you’re going to hit a gap where — even with two ASBs — one will run empty while the other is still reloading. Fun! Also, if it were somehow applied to offensive modules, it introduces a EvE-like version of diminishing returns for repeatedly applying the same effect to the same target over and over (a common mechanic in any MMO with a lot of this kind of ‘crowd control’).

And I got to thinking about reloading gaps. And about ECM.

So How About This:

You get rid of the magical beams of ECM in five magical flavors (one for each faction, plus the “multispectrum”), and replace them with ECM missiles in five magical flavors that hit their target and jam the target for let’s say 20 seconds[2]. Maybe these missiles launch out of special mid-slot modules, or (more likely) they launch out of regular missile launchers. Either way, the ECM-specialized boats gets some kind of bonus to them — probably a combination of fire rate and missile flight duration (longer range).

One thing you could then do is play with fire rates. Maybe (and this is just a random idea) the launchers loaded with these things only fire every 40 seconds or so. So, on an unbonused ship, you can jam your target for 20 seconds, force him to reacquire targets for x-seconds, and have to deal with x-seconds of pain until that next missile loads and you can jam him again. Or, you can cycle two alternating launchers on him. Or, use a specialized boat that narrows the margin between effective jam time and the rate of fire.

There are obviously things to address with this (such as ECM-emitting drones, which basically become just ECM multispectrum missiles with more fuel and a virtual intelligence), but that’s the basic idea.

In the short amount of time I’ve thought about it, this seems to introduce some interesting features into ECM warfare:

  • ECM retains the nigh-perfect jam rate, provided you can keep missiles cycling on a target. Easy if there are only a few targets, but with the difficulty of keeping multiple targets jammed scaling up far more quickly than it currently does.
  • Unless you’re getting hammered with ECM missiles from one very skilled pilot or multiple pilots, you’re going to start seeing more small windows of opportunity where you can actually do something during a fight. A skilled and prepared pilot (read: not me) can use those windows to accomplish some surprising things.
  • ECCM remains viable as a way to resist the effects of the missiles, but …
  • OMG there’s actually a use for those Defender Missiles that no one uses! A Falcon just decloaked on your Hurricane? Quickly reload your two ‘utility’ missile bays, swapping out normal offensive missiles with Defenders, providing a new (chance based) line of defense against the incoming ECM missile, potentially blowing it up before it gets to you!
  • Smaller ships, which are currently jammed quite easily, might actually stand a chance of outrunning ECM missiles long enough to do the ECM ship some harm or (and this would be cool) their speed might reduce the strength of the ECM pulse in the same way it currently reduces normal incoming missile damage, providing a third bit of defense for faster ships.

Hell, come to that, if you simply set the fire rate to 20 seconds with a 20 second rate of fire (base), but made the strength of the ECM from the missiles work the same was as normal missile damage (adjusted up by attacking ship type and relevant pilot skills, adjusted DOWN by defender skills, and possibly ship size and speed), that ALONE would rebalance ECM quite a bit, without crippling it.

Anyway, lots of ideas here. I don’t think of this as a solution so much as a collective brainstorm, so… thoughts?

Life in a Wormhole: Trying for a Good Fight #eveonline

CB reports that we have a Nighthawk command ship and a… Caracal cruiser? Running sleeper anomalies?

Really? A caracal? That’s… weird.

Everyone besides CB who is online and can fight (Bre, Tira) is currently out of the hole running errands (Bre’s retrieving her Crow interceptor from the corporate office, and Tira’s moving resources — we’ve given up on waiting til the hole is totally secure for running logistics, because if we do we’ll never get anything done), but CB hollers out into the interwebs and Em and Dirk log in. Much ship shuffling ensues, with CB getting the worst of it as he’s sent for an interdictor, then an interceptor, then a battlecruiser, et cetera et cetera. Dirk gets in his hurricane and sticks with it, as does Em in her Onyx heavy interdictor.

While CB is shuffling ships, the Nighthawk and Caracal (who have been remarkably unconcerned about this activity) decide they’re done with the site they’re running and warp back to the wormhole, only to be snagged by Em’s interdiction bubble. The two ship’s land quite far from one another, and Dirk has to choose between the expensive but distant Nighthawk, versus the cheap Caracal that basically landed right on top of him. He goes for the Caracal, which pops quickly, followed by the pilot’s pod — both before CB can get back to the fight from the tower (a recurring problem: finds a target and ends up in mid-ship swap and missing out on the actual fight). The nighthawk gets clear of the interdiction bubble and warps away before either Hurricane can close, waits a few minutes, then warps back down to the hole and overheats his propulsion to power through the bubble and get out of the wormhole. Boo.

We assume that’s it, but the Nighthawk surprises everyone by jumping back in for a second to scold our pilots for killing and podding the caracal pilot, because “he’s a brand new player.”

Maybe don't bring him into a wormhole, then?

It seems likely the system will remain quiet after that, but looks can be deceiving, as Shan later reports visitors in the hole via an incoming connection from another wormhole, and more than a few — by the time I get where I can do any good, he and Em have spotted a Legion strategic cruiser, two Tengus, a Loki, and a Proteus jumping in and out of the system, all but the Legion apparently capable of cloaking up. That seems like most of the ships likely to be around (given their kill record), but it’s hard to tell, since we weren’t around to watch the entrance from the moment it opened.

We’re a little short on manpower, but between the lot of us we figure we’ve got about six pilots to take a shot at the obvious Legion baitship sitting on the high-sec hole. Given that we probably need some kind of force multiplier for this, we go with four combat ships (three battlecruisers (two Hurricanes and a Harbinger), and a Dominix battleship), supplemented with a couple of Falcon force recon ships to try to cut down their incoming damage by jamming some of their target locks. We could just as easily have gone with logistics instead (and I’d generally prefer to do so over Falcons, as I find the ECM mechanics in the game to be poorly balanced and generally boring and un-fun for both sides of the fight), but we have several people multi-boxing, and generally that’s a lot easier to do when one of them is in a Falcon rather than some kind of repair ship.

Anyway, we warp down to the Legion, which we expect to be heavily tanked, and aren’t really surprised to be proven right, but our ships actually manage to get the strategic cruiser into low armor before his friends arrive. Things are looking pretty good for a decent brawl.

Until we see how many friends there are.

Yes, the two tengus, Loki, and Proteus strategic cruisers are there, but they’re accompanied by a Drake and Hurricane battlecruiser, a Vindicator battleship (a real brute of a ship that flourishes in the short ranges at which we’re engaged), and (most disappointing) 2 basilisk logistics ships to keep them all on the field.

In short, there’s little chance we’ll be able to beat the rep cycles of two dedicated logistics ships with our four combat ships, certainly not before their eight combat ships take us out, and especially not since Em seems to be unable to lock anything on the field (a malfunction with her Covert Ops cloak that prevents her from locking anything), and Bre’s falcon was called primary target straight away and forced off the field in flames.

We manage to drill into the opponents’ Legion and Hurricane structure, but two or three of us are in structure as well and have to jump out of the hole or explode for no good reason. We’re joined on that side of the hole by both of the (now flaming) ships from the other side and, with the eyes of CONCORD ever watchful, exchange nothing more than a “good fight” comment in local and a few comments about the way the fight went, then warp off to the nearest station to repair.

It was a good fight, but frustrating for a couple of reasons.

  • I hate multiboxing in PvP, and I’m not doing it anymore. It doesn’t increase our effectiveness nearly as much as it hurts us.
  • That was a lot of ships to leave cloaked up in our system in hopes of an ambush. They had to have been in there for hours. Good planning and dedicated work on their part, but I guess in the same situation I’d have… done something different. More and more, Wormhole PvP feels like “using expensive ships to get cheap kills.” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was frustrating.

The next day, the guys decide to go on a wormhole roam of our own, and I, Dirk, Em, and CB suit up in stealthy ships to explore the constellation of systems connected to ours through the class four. It’s good practice, and a good way to kill a couple-three hours, but our timing is off — it seems we’ve only just missed activity in every system we visit (and there are more than a few, as we map from our class 2 into the class 4, a class 3, a second class 4, a third class 5, and a class 5 wormhole, all disappointingly quiet (despite VERY recent signs of violence), and annoyingly full of scan signatures that are not more wormholes.

All in all, its good practice with no payoff. Everyone else takes off, and I wrap up by slipping through through the class 3’s high-sec connection and thence back to The Syndicate, where at least if (when) I jump through six systems and don’t find anyone to fight, it doesn’t take nearly as long.

Life in Eve: Placid Exploration #eveonline

The wormhole system is compromised once again, with a Buzzard cov-ops frigate buzzing around. This isn’t really a problem, except that it leaves us a bit less likely to undertake certain activities we might have considered, swapping the plan for hunting the sneaky ship around. The pilot has a respectable combat record, but we’re unable to pin him down to test his skill, so it’s mostly just wasted time on our part.

I watch a long line of PI-managing pilots (PI-lots) log in, then out, and once my bodyguarding is done, head back to the Placid Region of known space for an an experiment in exploration.

Scanning is not really a big problem for me, as I live in a wormhole and pretty much have to scan before I pull my pants on in the morning, then scan down a bowl of cereal, scan to find my car keys — you get the point; wormholes are scan-tastic.

Scanning isn’t de rigueur in known space, but it can be profitable. To that end, I’ve move Anja, my Ishtar heavy assault cruiser, over to our second corporate office and refit the ship into Swiss Army Knife Mode — a configuration in which the ship can weather the vagaries of low- and null-sec space, scan down profitable anomalies, defeat the NPC enemies therein, and then extract the valuable goodies from those sites. In order to manage this, I have to settle for being a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none, but ultimately I like the end result. Here’s what we’ve got:

[Ishtar, Ajna the Explorer]
Beta Reactor Control: Shield Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Shield Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Shield Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Shield Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Shield Power Relay I

Thermic Dissipation Amplifier II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Analyzer I
Codebreaker I

200mm Prototype Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M
Small Tractor Beam I
Salvager I
Sisters Core Probe Launcher, Sisters Core Scanner Probe I
Prototype Cloaking Device I

Medium Core Defense Field Purger I
Medium Core Defense Field Purger I

Warrior II x5
Garde I x5
Hammerhead II x5
Vespa EC-600 x5
Medium Armor Maintenance Bot I x5
Hobgoblin II x5

And just a few notes:

  • Obviously, with only one gun on to get aggression from the NPCs, all of the damage from the ship comes in the form of drones, which is no surprise on the drone-heavy ship. Like the rest of the ship, the drones are meant to handle (or at least try to handle) most any situation.
  • The tank on this ship is a passive regen fit, optimized for kinetic and thermal damage, which is fine, as I’ll be operating mostly in Placid, Syndicate, and Cloud Ring, where that kind of damage is prevalent. Other regions would require tweaking the tank.
  • The tractor beam, salvager, Analyzer, and Codebreaker are all for reaping profits from sites, once they’re clear (or sometimes while I’m clearing them).
  • The cloak is for emergency AFKs and generally frustrating pilots trying to scan down my location. As I’m usually doing this when I’m in a casual mood and/or prone to interruptions, and ALWAYS when I’m operating solo, the ability to cloak is priceless, and the fact that I might be pulled away for long stretches while cloaked vastly increases the odds the other guy will get bored and move on before I get bored and try something stupid.

All in all, it looks pretty good, so I head into the shallow low-sec of Placid (an area that now broadcasts new and interesting information to my HUD about the state of the ongoing Caldari-Gallente war that (presumably) rages in the low-sec space between the two nations). Once I find a likely looking system, I deploy probes and set about the familiar task of scanning. Sites are quickly located, but my scanning has apparently prompted others to scan, and it quickly becomes obvious that someone is (ineptly) trying to scan down my location. Anja might be able to handle an ambush if pressed, but I’m not specifically looking for a fight, so I (perhaps ironically) head deeper into lawless space, crossing the regional boundary into The Syndicate.

Once again, I find a likely system and scan down a good site, then set to the work of cleaning it out, keeping an eye on the Feels-Like-Cheating-Window, also known as the Local Broadcast Channel, which tells me the moment anyone enters the system and reassures me that I am currently working alone and that an ambush without any warning at all is, literally, impossible. I’m visited periodically by inhabitants of the next system over, but between the early warning in Local, my habitual use of d-scan, their predictable use of probes, my cloaking module, and a willingness to watch My Little Pony on Netflix until they get bored, I’m safe as houses.

Life in a Wormhole: Life on the Freeway #eveonline

There are a lot of upsides to the kind of class two wormhole system we live in. Easy access to known space. Profitable planetary colonies. Readily available high(er)-profit wormhole content the next system over.

And a constant influx of traffic to pick a fight with. This new system of ours is a LOT busier than our old home, which had considerably less-useful exits.

This last feature can sometimes feel a little be less like a pro and more like a con. While random visitors from high-sec can be, at times, hilarious, the fact is that our persistent wormhole connections (to highsec and class four wormhole space) make us the perfect route for travelers from deeper, more dangerous wormhole systems trying to get to known space. As a result, when one of those kinds of holes connect to our class four, they tend to get REALLY active in our hole as they race for highsec to cash in weeks or months of loot and bring needed supplies back in. That’s great for random hauler mugging, if they’re idiots or unlucky, but depressingly few of those pilots hauling billions of isk worth of loot through our system are that dumb — they move with stealth, scouts, and bodyguards.

As a result, when we’ve got traffic, we usually have a lot, and while that means we have something to do, it often isn’t what we’d planned on. Bre’s rumble with a nemesis, thorax, nighthawk, wolf, and drake marked the end of a day where we were trying to keep our eyes on our normal connection to high-sec and class four wormhole space, plus an additional two random, incoming connections from class four wormhole systems.

Today, those connections are gone, only be replaced with our two persistent connections and two random, incoming connections from high-sec, marking the third day running where we’ve had plenty of time to do stuff, only to see those plans sidelined while we watch for idiots sneaking into the system. Our only productive activity is hauling planetary products out to market ridiculously close to one of our many high-sec exits.

While out in the world, Ty puts together a passively-tanked Loki strategic cruiser designed to run sites in class four and higher wormholes. This comes following a number of conversations with the ceo of the alliance who used to make a habit of camping our old wormhole, as we’ve collectively been invited to come up to their home system and shoot some sleepers. I’m approaching this situation with some caution, and keeping our group involvement to a minimum (CB’s suggestion — testing the waters rather than jumping in headfirst, the way we did with the c6 corp), and in any case most of our ‘main’ pilots are still in the c6 corp itself, proving once again that their annoyance threshold is far higher than mine (obviously, or they’d never have put up with me for as long as they have, I think).

CB has also put together a passively-tanked sleeper shooter in the same vein as my own, though in his case it’s a Tempest-class battleship, rather than a ridiculously expensive Loki (I’m not being THAT cautious after all, I guess). After putting it together, he notes that it is the first time he’s been able to fit a battleship-class ship “properly” in every way: no corners cut, no modules included only so they can help other modules fit, a strong tech 2 tank, and tech 2 weaponry. There are certainly ways to get to this stage of character skill more quickly, but considering that CB and Ty rarely fly battleships and have both spent a lot of time cross-training the sub-battleship skills for virtually every faction and type of combat, it’s not surprising that this milestone has taken as long as it has.

And in any case, it feels good.

CB isn’t around in the evening, nor is anyone else (and even if they were, they’d been in another wormhole), so I head back out to known space and refit my Ishtar for a little project I’ve been toying with (null-sec scanning and exploration in The Syndicate and Cloud Ring regions), then call it an early night.

Life in a Wormhole: Caw Caw Bang #eveonline

The good news: I can log in!

The bad news: The next two days are a frustration of angry evemails about the C6 ‘siege’ where nothing seems to be happening. The corp in the c6 abruptly joins an alliance for some assistance and protection, and the folks in that alliance… do not impress. Between guys who won’t give me a bookmark so I can come back in and help, and other guys who mock me for not having a carrier alt logged out in the wormhole, I am more than a little bit done with all that idiocy. Since I have no ships stored in the c6, and little to no gear, I simply drop my roles and permissions in the corp and start my 24 hour timer leading to my quiet departure.

Meanwhile, stuff is happening back in the C2. It seems as though…

Hmm. I’ll let Bre tell it.

So CB is bringing in a ship to hit our c4 sleepers and as he jumps back out in his pod to get his cheetah, reports a nemesis on the hole.

I reship into my crow and go orbit the hole but no one will fight me.

Then a Thorax warps in, drops light drones, and the Nemesis uncloaks.

I kind of fixate on the drones and kill them instead of the Nemesis. Four of them die (tech 2s) and the ‘rax pulls the last one. The Nem warps off as I turn back on him (I should have just shot him — the drones couldn’t catch me), and the ‘rax follows suit. Boo.

Anyway I orbit for awhile, knowing they’re going to come back in with something better for killing me, and eventually they do. Yay.

A Wolf lands on the hole, but his shields are terrible and I put him into quarter-armor in about 10 seconds and he jumps out into highsec just as a Drake and Nighthawk land. I’m prepared to ignore their damage like I did with the last couple bomber fights, but somehow they REALLY hurt, so I tear ass for the wormhole and get out in half armor, then repair and warp back up to the hole.

I jump back in, and now they have a Broadsword, Nighthawk, and Drake.

I decloak, light my MWD and align to the tower. The broadsword puts his bubble up, but my MWD is overheated, and with the system’s bonus to overheating I’m 130 km away by the time any of them even yellowbox me.

I forgot about the added damage from overheating, though. OUCH.

So get back to the tower and try to find some nanite paste. There’s none in any of the folders anywhere. Crap.

So I try my drake. Nope. My buzzard. Nope. My Raven? No. Ty’s Gila? YES! Finally! Why does he have paste in his PvE Gila? WHO CARES!

I know all that ship swapping has looked pretty silly on their scanners, and I know they’re watching, so…

[17:31:41] Bre > A ha! Nanite repair paste. I knew there was some in here somewhere…
[17:31:52] Matt0 > we did wonder wtf you were doing 🙂
[17:32:05] Bre > I sometimes forget where we leave things 🙂
[17:32:08] Bre > my next move was going to be trading you replacement drones for some paste 🙂
[17:32:15] Larad > hehe
[17:32:26] Ikas > Lets just call it quits and be friends.. lol.
[17:32:34] Matt0 > and go kill the fuckers next door in that cloaky loki
[17:32:37] Bre > works for me. We have so many holes coming in here today it’s like trying to direct traffic.
[17:33:09] Matt0 > yeah, you’ve got 2 c4’s coming in, nightmare
[17:33:30] Matt0 > ps.. I hate ceptors 🙂
[17:33:39] Bre > I kinda love em 🙂
[17:33:55] Ikas > I can see why 🙂
[17:34:31] Larad > if only I had loaded precision missiles too rather then being an idiot
[17:35:06] Bre > I’m was surprised by how much the drake and nighhawk hurt! the bombers usually can’t even hit me, so I got lazy.
[17:35:46] Bre > I should have gone after the bomber, but the drones made me nervous. no one had ever tried em on me before 🙂
[17:35:47] Matt0 > dont think the drake used them, these precision missiles are a bitch if you get in range though
[17:36:05] Bre > well, one of you guys lit me up pretty well 🙂
[17:36:41] Matt0 > ahh, well, retiring for a bit now. laters o/
[17:36:55] Bre > later. good luck with the loki

And that was the afternoon. I love this game.

So say we all.

Just as the evening is wrapping up, one of the guys from the C6 corp (the only one who hasn’t been a complete pain in the ass) asks if I’ve been keeping up on the conversation in their Intel Channel.

I explain, politely, that since I’ve dropped roles and will be leaving the corp in (checks watch) 21 hours, I thought it best for everyone if I left their intel channel.

His response: “Oh.”

CB’s comment:

Life in a Wormhole: You Know What’s Good? #eveonline

Game of Thrones. Now there’s a good show. Ty’s account is still disabled, and I can’t get anyone to respond to my ticket, so let’s go watch some more GoT…

The ISK investment in the C2 wormhole is now entirely paid off, so all POCO tax rates have been dropped down to “just enough for keep us in cheetos and gin” levels. Let the floodgates of industry open.

We also manage to get the last of the ice products we need into the tower so we can cook up our 2nd month’s worth of backup fuel. Everything seems to be rolling right along.

Div, Clovis, and Bre run a couple sleeper sites, netting each pilot about 50 million isk for an hour of flying.

Yep. All in all, seems as though the c2 is going pretty well.

The C6 on the other hand, has a few problems. Apparently (according to my email box full of poorly spelled and non-punctuated messages) the system is “under siege”, which is apparently panic-speak for “we saw an enemy dreadnought and a half-dozen battleships in the system, and then engaged a couple hurricanes with a handful of assault frigs and inexplicably died.”

I’d like to help — I truly would — but since I can’t log in I guess it will have to wait til tomorrow.

Life in a Wormhole: Back with Agony Empire #eveonline

Ty’s out with Agony Empire for an interesting sort of seminar/roam, led by a fairly well-known low-sec ‘pirate’ who spends about 30 minutes answering questions about the ins and outs of lowsec PvP before leading us into Syndicate on cruiser composed mostly tech 1 cruisers. The fleet commander isn’t terribly familiar with the area (he is a LOW-sec pirate, after all), so he lets his scouts indicate where there might be activity and focuses on keeping the fleet moving, baiting opponents into a fight with his… Loki?

To me, a tech three cruiser has a pretty hefty price tag to use as bait, but apparently the FC is alright with risk, and there’s no arguing with the effectiveness of the tactic. More than a few groups engage, unwilling to give up the chance at a juicy kill, which gives us time to join in on the fun. We don’t travel far, but stay active and get into a number of fun brawls. I find cruiser roams to be pretty enjoyable — cheap enough that you’re not terribly worried about your ship, but tough enough you actually have time to react when things start happening. Good stuff.

Unfortunately, my pleasure comes to an abrupt halt when Ty’s account shuts down without warning or explanation. I try to figure out what’s going on and log a petition with support, but after a few hours I give up and spend my free time watching Game of Thrones, which can hardly be seen as a bad thing.

Life in a Wormhole: Get Thee Back Into the Tempest #eveonline

Subtitle: “I Do Not Always Post Ship Fittings, But When I Do, They’re Bad”

There’s only one NPC-owned Customs Office in the system — a planetary structure that the former occupants didn’t convert to player ownership — and its presence vexes me. Em and I have arranged a good time to destroy the structure and replace it with our own, and that time is now, or at least it’s coming up really soon, and Bre is stressing about it.

While the customs office itself isn’t a big deal, there is some other ‘bashing’ stuff coming up as well, and as a result, she’s feeling the need for a decent high-damage PvP ship. The problem is that Bre is really quite specialized in a few things (frigates of every shape and size, EWAR, and missiles of all sizes), and none of her current ships really fit the bill. Anything bigger than a frigate and she’s pretty much confined to Caldari ships (she’s Gallente, but her missile skills put her in Caldari hulls most of the time), and while she picked up an armor-tanked Scorpion for a fleet awhile back, the ECM-platform lacks a little something in the DPS department — namely, the “D”.

Also, it’s not really a ship that she flies very much; if there’s a situation where ECM is called for, one of our many blackbirds are far cheaper to risk, and her Kitsunes boast more powerful jams. Robbed of its main purpose, it’s only flown to kill unwanted wormholes, and really any battleship can do that.

So, in short, what she’s looking for is a missile-based ship that will do good damage when a structure needs to blow up, and which serves a second role Bre’s not already handling with some other ship she prefers — which probably means “PvP DPS”.

That doesn’t leave a ton of options. Em points out that a Raven battleship does the structure bashing just fine, but it has a — perhaps justifiable — reputation as a poor PvP ship in any situation where it’s likely to be used. Em explains that, fitted with cruise missiles, its damage is moderate but unimpressive. The range is good, but the travel time on the missiles means that a comparable ship from another race, fitted with turret-based weapons, will apply similar damage nigh-instantly, while the Raven needs ten or twenty seconds for each volley to finally get where it’s going — that’s not attractive in many (any) PvP situations. You can go with high-damage Torpedoes, but while the damage is much better, the weapon system’s short range (usually less than twenty kilometers) means the Raven has to get up close and personal, which puts it at a range where it can easily be swarmed by fast, small ships that can avoid much of the torpedo damage and tear the Raven apart bit by bit.

He makes some good points, but it occurs to me that the nature of PvP combat in wormholes provides us with a unique situation where the Raven’s weaknesses can be negated, and maybe even turned into strengths. A bit of fiddling at the drafting board, and some good suggestions from Em, and we come up with the a design that Bre sells off her Scorpion to pick up and fit.

[Raven, Bashing and Hole Defense]
Reactor Control Unit II
Damage Control II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II

Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II
Warp Disruptor II
Prototype 100MN MicroWarpdrive I
Stasis Webifier II

Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Scourge Torpedo
Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Scourge Torpedo
Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Scourge Torpedo
Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Scourge Torpedo
Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Scourge Torpedo
Prototype ‘Arbalest’ Torpedo Launcher, Scourge Torpedo
Large EMP Smartbomb I
Heavy Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Large Core Defense Field Extender I
Large Core Defense Field Extender I
Large Core Defense Field Extender I

Hammerhead II x5
Warrior II x5

Even ‘downgrading’ from tech2 launchers to the Arbalest models, it’s more than a bit of a tight fit (requiring both good fitting skills and Bre’s Genolution-Core implants to work), but when it’s all said and done she’s happy with the results. Using plain old missiles on structure bashes, the DPS is in the 800s, and switching to faction torpedoes pushes the numbers just a skosh north of 1000.

“Sure,” you might say, “but what about all those problems with PvP you mentioned?

Well, lets take a look at those.

Range
PvP in a wormhole is a bit of a change from typical null- or low-sec combat, and a lot of the difference in range. In null-sec, you’re likely fighting on a gate, at relatively long ranges — two forces jumping through the same gate may be over 30 kilometers from each other and well outside the Raven’s torp range. Wormholes, however, have a much smaller ‘dump’ area (8km) meaning that the target will never appear outside the Raven’s effective range.

Also, this ship doesn’t particularly mind being up close, especially in a wormhole environment. The tank is quite solid, and the web plus microwarpdrive should allow the ship to keep its targets where it wants them.

Smaller ships
We’re addressing the ‘small ship’ problem in two ways, one environmental and one via the ship design.

Environmental: The simple fact of the matter is that small ships — anything smaller than a battlecruiser — is pretty rare to see in a wormhole, especially if you’re talking about anyone jumping into the system to try their hand at shooting sleepers or assault a tower. Strategic cruisers are the exception, but in general tech 2 cruisers/destroyers/frigates are rare and often highly specialized, tech 1 versions are largely non-existent. Thus, between the ships commonly seen, the short range, and that web, the Raven shouldn’t have too much trouble applying damage to the most common targets.

Design: But lets say we do have to deal with those smaller ships. First off, the Heavy Neutralizer is quite effective at shutting down the systems on smaller ships (including those pesky tech3 cruisers), and its effective range is longer than any other system on the ship — enough to tag anyone fighting at short to even low-medium range. A single cycle will shut off everything on a frigate or destroyer, and 2 or 3 will ruin the day of most cruisers or battlecruisers. Pesky frigates will also find themselves with a face full of light drones, and if they venture too close, there’s the AoE damage from the large smart bomb (which doubles as a defensive tool for killing enemy drones, and which — in OUR wormhole — fires out an extra two or three unexpected kilometers — just enough to affect otherwise wary attackers.

Is it a perfect design? Not at all — it would probably flail ineffectively and die in a lot of situations, but we’re not taking into a lot of situations — we’re using it in a wormhole, in a couple specific situations that maximize its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses a bit.

In any case, Bre is happy with it, and jumps back into the system with Quothe fitted and kitted for the evening’s bashing fun. The combined firepower of the battleship and a half-dozen tier 2 and tier 3 battlecruisers drops the customs office quickly. Ty, Em, and Dirk head out to known space to return to the c6, while Bre and CB stick around to handle their PI setups. Berke ducks out to known space as well, only to return a few minutes later with a Player Owned Customs Office and the required enhancements to get the thing running, all of which he anchors and assembles.

System assimilation: Complete.

Life in a Wormhole: Keeping the Shades Drawn #eveonline

I logged out in the class two last night, and our entrances are all closed, so the only vector for attack is someone who patiently logged out in the system to try to jump us when our guard is down. Possible (it’s certainly happened before), but fairly unlikely. In any case, this is a good time to get chores done, and pilots come out of the woodwork to deal with the planetary interaction colonies.

I cover the many industrials warping hither and yon with a single combat scanning probe out, ignoring all current signatures and watching for new sigs and/or unknown ships. Coupled with my directional scanner to watch for the sudden appearance of an unlikely but not impossible system lurker, I feel pretty safe, and for once my feelings appear to be accurate.

P.I. done, Bre decides to shoot some sleepers on her own, so I leave the probe out and give her until its normal expiration timer (less than an hour) to enact her plan. She manages to clear three sites in that time, and while the loot is a bit low-average, it’s still 40 or 50 million isk she’d otherwise not have. A good, if quiet, night.

Life in a Wormhole: Avoiding Incursions and Shooting Sleepers #eveonline

I wake up in the class six wormhole, but there’s no one on, so I scan an exit to the adjacent class 1, and thence to high-sec.

What to do? I have a scimitar logistics ship appropriately fit for running Incursion sites, which might be fun and educational, but when I get to the closest one, it seems no one’s running it. The current “focus” incursion is far away, and apparently the recent changes to the way Incursions work means that ‘indy’ incursion runners can’t do very well running the off-brand incursion sites. Ah well. I start heading toward the other incursion when CB logs on, followed by a few other pilots. We debate options and settle on killing sleepers in our home system. (By which I mean the class two, since no one else from the class six is on.)

Sometimes, a promising-looking portal to another place doesn't turn out that well. So it seems to be with the Class Six.

We ship up and begin killing, with Bre watching exits and scanner readouts while Tira puts her perfect salvaging skills to work in the NSS Generous Donation. Berke hauls the loot out for us and returns in his Orca, Astropatamus. He hadn’t originally intended to bring an Orca in, but when half the active pilots in the class two are technically part of another corp, the orca becomes the best (and, in fact, only) decent option for refitting or swapping ships in and out of the main hangar — unlike the static tower installations, it can be set up as a mobile ship hangar for any pilot in the fleet to use, regardless of corporate affiliation. It makes the wrap-up for the evening, if not exactly easy, at least a bit less painful, and all the active pilots (regardless of corporation) bunk down in the class two for the night.

[Unrelated Thing: Charles de Lint wrote a blurb for my book! Holy crap!]

Life in a Wormhole: Fleet Ops #eveonline

CB and I are heading out of the hole for an “Amarr-themed” roam with Red vs. Blue. As a general rule of thumb, these things are a fine bit of fun (it’s fun to listen to drunken Brits chatting over Mumble, at any rate), so I don’t think I’ll spend (much) time going over my complaints with how this (and other) roams ran. Instead, I thought I’d turn my frustration into something more productive by writing down some thoughts on what I consider good ideas when it comes to forming up and taking part in roams in EvE.

For the uninitiated (those who play MMOs, but not EvE), a roam is basically just forming up a fleet and sort of going on a patrol/prowl/hunt through the wilder areas of low-sec and null-sec space, with the hopes of finding that holy grail of EvE PvP play: the Good Fight. It’s not unlike forming up for a raid in typical theme park MMO, in that you have an organized start time, a known agenda, and roles that need to be filled within the fleet, but (obviously) unlike it in that what you actually end up doing and what you end up fighting is a complete unknown until (or after) it happens.

Still, I’ve found that the basic “raid” mindset I developed in other MMOs serves me well here. Starting with the rank-and-file pilots in the fleet, I think there are a few good rules of thumb that will improve the experience for you and everyone else in the group.

If you’re familiar with the somewhat cutthroat and “Harden the Fuck Up” attitude prevalent in EvE, it might be a surprise to learn that there’s such a thing as good fleet etiquette. Let me assure you, there is. Every fleet and fleet commander is going to handle things differently — some more casually, some more strict or even “hardcore” — but I think I can say this fairly safely: if you observe these general guidelines, you’ll do okay regardless of which kind of group you’re flying with.

Be Prepared

Before you do anything else, make sure you’re prepared to roam.

  • Is your ship fitted out in accordance with whatever style of fleet is going to be going out? A bunch of fast frigates will look sideways at your neutralizer-heavy, armor-tanked Dominix battleship, and a bunch of long range, skirmishing battlecruisers will have little use for your short-range, high-damage Brutix brawler.
  • Do you have enough of the right kinds of ammunition and other consumables, such as cap boosters or nanite repair paste? For roams, I usually don’t bother with more than two or three reloads for each type of ammunition I’m bringing, and even then I’ll probably lose my ship long before I run out even that small amount of ammo — but make sure you HAVE the ammo — nothing’s more annoying than waiting on someone who just realized they don’t have the long-range stuff they need for the skirmishing fleet they’ve joined.
  • Do you have appropriate skills for the ships and fitting you’re flying? If not, consider a different ship. If you’re flying with a fleet of armor-tanked heavy assault cruisers, and your armor skills are terrible or non-existant, you’re going to have a bad time trying to force yourself into a ship you can’t fly well — there’s always a need in any fleet for scouts or fast tacklers (neither of whom have a tank to speak of), so fly that instead, or simply realize you don’t have the skills you need for that fleet and move on.

Is the answer to any of those questions “No”?

Then stop. You have other stuff to do before you take this thing any further.

Is the answer “not at this exact moment, but with some trips to my supply cache and some quick purchases on the market, I’ll be ready”, then DO THAT STUFF NOW. The time to get your ship properly kitted and fitted is BEFORE the scheduled start… all that stuff takes time. Maybe not much time, but it’s not just your time you’re taking — multiply every minute you spend running round by the number of people in the fleet, waiting to get started. That’s how much time you just wasted, and if you’re sitting there reading this and saying “so what?” then you’re bad, and you should feel bad.

Do the Homework

No, you’re not the Fleet Commander (FC), but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a bit of reading on whatever region or regions you and your merry band are planning to prowl through, or that you can’t improve your own performance by reviewing the common tactics used by whatever kind of fleet you’re going to be flying in. In this, Google (plus some smart search querying) is your friend. Yes, the FC will assign people roles and call targets and make decisions about where you’re going and when you hold up or keep moving, but understanding WHY he’s doing that helps you have a better experience.

Start time is START Time

This is one both pilots and FCs could stand to remember. If the roam starts at 2pm, you should be in your ship and TOTALLY READY to undock at 2pm. Don’t do a ‘quick run to Jita’ at 1:30. Sure, you can get there and back again in time, if nothing goes wrong and you have no delays.

If.

Don’t plan based on any kind of ‘if’, except for this one: “IF you can’t get done with whatever other thing you’re considering at LEAST fifteen minutes before fleet invites start going out, don’t start it.”

Can You Hear Me Now? Goooood.

I’ve heard people say that since it’s just a basic roam, and they know the area, the FC, and their sihp, they can come along on the raid, just reading the fleet broadcasts, asking a question in the fleet text chat every so often, and doing their job, without using voice chat.

That’s… sort of sad and adorable. Like a mentally handicapped puppy.

Here’s the deal: your fleet is using some kind of voice chat. Period. If they aren’t, they’re going to die, and you should avoid flying with them. Find out what voice communication software your fleet is going to use and set it up ahead of time. (The in-game chat in EvE is quite servicable, but Ventrillo/TeamSpeak/Mumble are all common — they’re free downloads, easily customized, and generally dead simple to set up on the user side of things.)

Do you need a microphone? No. You don’t have to talk, but you do have to be able to listen.

Now that we can talk to each other, STFU.

When the fleet commander talks, listen (or at least shut up so everyone else can hear). Ears open. Mouth shut. Don’t be the person that has to have everything explained twice — once beforehand, and once after everyone dies. Especially don’t be the guy who wouldn’t shut up long enough for everyone else to hear instructions properly.

(One of the downsides to the RvB roams is that I end up muting over half the fleet members, simply because they’re generating too much noise to hear the signal.)

Understand that there is a time and a place for screwing around and/or socializing, even during a roam, but when the FC or some other person in a designated role calls for silence, give it to them, and do so immediately. Some fleets are very lax about who’s talking when, some… aren’t — the easiest way to find out how your fleet operates is to shut the hell up and listen for awhile.

Limit AFKs

AFK. The roam killer. There are many good times to have extended AFKs — a good FC will announce them ahead of time and keep them short. Communicate with others to check for when those scheduled AFKs are coming, and if at all possible avoid going AFK at other times — it goes back to the fact that every minute you wasted is multiplied by all the people in the fleet.

Yes, there are absolutely times when you will have to go AFK. Absolutely. However, even in those cases, be respectful.

  • Announce yourself – don’t just vanish.
  • Give a reason. We don’t need to hear your life story, but say something. If you’re going to be a long while (“my kid just set the dog on fire”) say so.
  • Say when you’ll be back. “One sec” is inaccurate and unlikely. Be realistic and if you have to estimate, estimate high.
  • Don’t you DARE get upset if you go afk for ten minutes and come back to find that you’ve been replaced or (more likely) left behind. 10 minutes multiplied by the twenty-four other people is four wasted hours of collective time — of COURSE they kept going. It’s not personal, so don’t make it personal.

Do Unto Others As Though They Were You

Stop for two seconds and consider your actions within the group — if someone else was doing what you’re doing right now (long AFKs, lack of prep, showing up late), would it annoy you?

Yes?

Then knock it the fuck off.

For the FCs: This All Goes Double for You

  • Do the Homework — nothing is more annoying and lame than a fleet commander who doesn’t know where they’re going, what kind of fight they’re looking for, or what kind of roles they need to have filled. Figure this stuff out beforehand, and (as much as is ever possible) stick to that basic plan.
  • Start time is START Time — Starting late is a great way to ensure that people stop taking you seriously before you’re even out of the docking station.
  • Exercise good comms discipline — I’ll borrow from my teaching background and suggest you be a bit stricter than normal at the outset of a roam, and slowly relax down to whatever ‘normal’ is for you as the roam progresses. Comm discipline will deteriorate as time goes on, anyway, so it’s best to aim high so that the result you actually get is acceptable.
  • Limit (and schedule) AFKs
  • When it comes to comms, don’t be this guy. Don’t be these guys, either. Think about how you sound, and strive to be someone you wouldn’t mind following into a fight.

In addition to all of that, you have a few other things to worry about, but one of the main ones is:

Keep Moving

If I had a dollar for every time I sat for twenty minutes on a jump gate in a fleet of over forty guys while scouts try to find a single battleship in the next system over, the accumulated cash would pay for each of my EvE accounts, with money left over to play Somer.Blink. Yes, your job as FC is to find fights, but have a sense of proportion — there is an easily deduced ratio between the amount of actual ‘fight’ a potential target will give your fleet, and the amount of time you should spend trying to get that fight. I say again: have a sense of proportion.

Now, not everyone had a bad time with this roam — CB in particular enjoyed himself, but decided to leave when I had to take off for other commitments. It’s too bad that he did, because on the way back out of Syndicate, he ran headlong into the Agony Empire fleet that was just entering the region for a roam of their own, and that marked the end of his beloved Prophecy, Angry Bird. His problems gave me just enough warning to get away and dock up, which let me take care of my other commitments and come back later to sneak my own (blaster fit) Prophecy back to Stacmon, where I dock up, clone-jump, and head back to the Class Six wormhole.

A Network of Support

It’s consistently cool to run into people — folks with whom my connections are in no way literary (or to be honest, well-maintained) — who are both excited about Hidden Things coming out, and actively promoting the book in their part of the internet: The Cobalt Kobold: Hidden Things. Gamers are good people.

A lot of tabletop folk think about writing a novel, but for most of us it doesn’t get this far.  How awesome is it when one of us not only follows through, but also convinces a major publisher that it’s worth printing?

I’ve never really thought of myself as a tabletop-player-turned-writer, as Hidden Things definitely isn’t a ‘gaming novel’, but a gamer who’s also a writer? Why yes, I’ll proudly fly that flag.

Also: based on the photo in Dale’s post, my handwriting has not improved one bit in the last 10 years. Apologies in advance to anyone whose copy I deface with my signature.

Life in a Wormhole: A Somewhat More Coherent Defense #eveonline

Now that Tira has ably defended the wormhole from invasion with an unarmed scouting vessel and a single combat drone, Bre and Berke can bring their haulers back into the system, each one filled to brimming with fuel products purchased from ice asteroid mining operations.

Unfortunately, such ice products are bulky (at least they feel bulky when you’re buying them in the quantities we require), and we’ve nowhere near met our quota. Shan is heading out to known space through that same exit recently abandoned by Hurrr, taking piles of PI out to market, and I ask if he’ll bring back another load, which he’s happy to do.

Just as he jumps through our wormhole, however, he announces a deadlier contact that a Badger II hauler on scan — looks as though the bomber pilot that he spotted earlier is back, jumping into the system just as Shan jumped out.

This time, it’s Bre rather than Tira that responds to the call, jumping into her Crow, warping directly to the wormhole, and jumping out to known space. We have eyes watching the wormhole, and they seem to think that the Purifier bomber warped away just before it cloaked up — there’s a good chance (if Bre moved quickly enough) that he’s not back within visual range just yet, and won’t know she’s around in a bomber-eating combat interceptor. Her plan is to simply wait outside the hole until Shan returns in his durable Mastodon deep space transport, then shadow him back through the wormhole in hopes that the unarmed ship will draw the bomber out of hiding.

It turns out she won’t need to wait, as our eyes-inside report that the bomber is back and orbiting the wormhole at a torpedo-friendly distance. Bre powers back toward the other side of the hole just as the bomber resumes his cloak, but she decides to jump anyway, hoping that the wormhole activity alone will be enough to get the other pilot to tip his hand.

It is. Caw Caw Bang holds its naturally-occurring jump-cloak for a few seconds, the opponent bomber decloaks, and she immediately locks it up and drops into a high-speed orbit just inside the range of both her warp disruptors and the Crow’s missile launchers. Unlike most other combat interceptors, the Crow is as effective at long range as it is at brawling distance — to be honest, it’s probably even better at long range, as the broader 20+ kilometer orbit lets her maintain a higher top speed: so high, in fact, that once she settles into a stable orbit, the bomber’s larger, slower torpedoes are actually unable to catch up with her and the Crow stops taking any damage at all. The nimble interceptor builds up a collection frustrated-but-harmless warheads trailing in its wake, unable to fulfill their purpose before they run out of fuel.

Such is not the case with the bomber, however, as the Crow’s lighter but faster missiles find the fragile ship again and again. Unfortunately, with the wormhole immediately adjacent, Bre isn’t able to snag a kill — the bomber pilot sees where the fight is going and jumps through the wormhole and out to high-security known space just as the last of his shields drop. He doesn’t wait around, either, and has already jumped out of the system by the time Bre jumps through to check his status.

That’s about all the excitement we need for the day, so once Shan has returned with his Mastodon, Bre jumped into a Raven battleship and jumps back and forth through the wormhole until the anomaly collapses from the stress and leaves our system a bit emptier, and a bit more secure. It’s been a busy morning.

Life in a Wormhole: Outside Input #eveonline

I’m still traveling, so an actual blog entry is a bit difficult at the moment, but I did want to share a couple of quotes that (I feel) are really important things for me to remember.

First, Voltaire:

Second, Grace Murray Hopper:

Suffice it to say that these two bits of advice will be affecting things around here.

Heh

I meant to post this morning,but the need to actually make a flight interfered. Still, funny, and the new missile effects are very cool.

Life in a Wormhole: Desperate Measures #eveonline

[Because I didn’t feel like waiting another day…]

It’s the next morning, and our Message of the Day has been updated, notifying our pilots of Hurrr’s dogged persistence. Also, there appears to be a Purifier-class bomber ghosting around the system, but Shan hasn’t seen it in a hour or more.

“There is a problem,” he comments, “with always leaving our front door open.”

It’s a hard point to argue with, though on the flipside, it sometimes rewards us with some hilarity.

Bre is ready to cook up the next month’s worth of tower fuel, so she and Berke jump into haulers and head to the nearest market for the requisite asstons [metric] of ice-mining-related fuel ingredients that we can’t harvest inside a wormhole. Shan is gone for a bit, so Tira steps up to keep an eye on the wormhole while everyone’s out and about.

Things are quiet.

That’s when Hurrr’s hauler lands on the wormhole and jumps out into high-sec.

“Holy…”

Tira nudges her Helios covert-ops ship closer to the hole, but doesn’t jump through immediately. Hopefully, our visitor’s hauler is about to warp off to a station (or, better yet, a gate), and it wouldn’t do to alert him to the fact that the wormhole is being watched by jumping through while he’s still nearby.

Tira gives it a slow sixty-count, then jumps. No ships nearby, but she does see (thanks to the suddenly populated Local channel) that Hurrr is still in-system. She moves a few kilometers off the wormhole and informs Berke and Bre of current events, but the pair are nearly a dozen jumps away and in the most non-combatty of non-combat ships. Any hole defense is going to be up to little Tira, whose personal hobbies include playing stealthy lookout, salvaging wrecks, hacking, archaeology, and long walks on the beach.

Hopefully Hurrr won’t jump back to the wormhole until —

Oh crap.

The Badger Mk II lands on the wormhole and jumps immediately. Tira has no choice but to follow and attack.

There’s only one little problem.

She’s in a Helios.

The Helios covert-ops frigate. Exactly as dangerous as it looks.

Now, covert ops frigates aren’t, as a class, particularly rugged or well-armed ships at the best of times, but the Helios ranks especially low in this regard, simply because of its fitting limitations: in order to put on an advanced cloak and a probe launcher (both pretty much mandatory if you plan to use the ship for its intended purpose) you have to forgo mounting any kind of weapon on the ship itself. (This particular helios once belonged to Ty — it is now exclusively Tira’s mostly because no one flies the things if they have any other option.)

Still, Tira does have a few tools at her disposal…

The Badger has already decloaked on the far side of the wormhole, and appears to be aligning to warp. Tira decloaks as well, target locking the Badger and activating her Warp Disruptor II. Many would consider that sufficient, but as we have learned from watching Tiger Ears, sometimes a pesky hauler will fit one or more warp core stabilizers to their ship, to protect them from just such an attack. Tira flips on her microwarpdrive and burns straight for the ship, ramming into its shields and sending it skewing sideways and off its alignment.

So: warp disrupted target, out of alignment, and you still don’t have any guns.

But you do have

one.

light.

combat drone.

Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!

Tira sics the drone on the hauler, and that’s about when the pilot realizes his couch privileges have been revoked. He jumps through the wormhole and warps away.

Bre reenters the adjacent high-sec system only a few minutes later, and Hurrr still there, presumably hiding in the nearest station.

Hurrr > Bre! There’s been a misunderstanding with one of your pilots.
Bre > I heard about that! Come back up to the wormhole and we’ll get things completely straightened out.

Our diplomacy team is ready to assist you.

Hurrr, perhaps to his credit, declines. Berke, just arriving on the scene, spots him heading toward the system’s outward-bound warp gate.

A few hours later we notice that the planetary colony he set up as been remote detonated.

Life in a Wormhole: I *still* don’t even… #eveonline

CB sent me an email yesterday.

“For your blog.”

I can only assume he intended it as a portrait of our transient P.I. pilot. I love it when people do my work for me, in advance.

In fact, my job is doubly easy, because, when I log in the next day, I have an email from Bre, containing a chat log.

—————————————————————
Channel Name: Local
Listener: Bre
—————————————————————

[ 05:24:50 ] Hurrr > So… basically you cant run T3 on a single planet no more, eh?
[ 05:25:32 ] Hurrr > trying to make Smartfab UNits…doesnt seem to let me get enough PG
[ 05:25:58 ] Bre > no… that changed over a year ago.
[ 05:26:04 ] Hurrr > great
[ 05:26:27 ] Hurrr > so much for my WH PI pay for an account plans 🙁
[ 05:26:38 ] Bre > well, that and the tax rates we have set for -5s and -10s in here.
[ 05:26:46 ] Hurrr > I guess I better look for best paying T2 then eh?
[ 05:27:19 ] Bre > by all means, set up a couple. helps us buy new ships.
[ 05:27:30 ] Hurrr > its ok…I just try to get this PI stuff to work..if I manage to set something up..I will ask for some arrangement (ed.: I can think of a couple ideas…)
[ 05:27:41 ] Hurrr > if not…you are more than welcome to whatever taxes you make
[ 05:27:46 ] Hurrr > I wont interfere much 🙂
[ 05:30:03 ] Hurrr > how is life here in WH land anyways..? pretty quiet?
[ 05:30:15 ] Bre > not tonight.
[ 05:30:47 ] Hurrr > oh..you guys saw some action?
[ 05:32:28 ] Bre > well, no, I was referring to /local
[ 05:32:35 ] Hurrr > oh..sorry
[ 05:32:44 ] Hurrr > I will learn the proper ethics..and be quiet 🙂
[ 05:33:17 ] Bre > no no. I’m glad you spoke up.
[ 05:33:38 ] Hurrr > and seriously..if I piss you guys off..I can leave…
[ 05:33:51 ] Hurrr > I just want to be quiet..and try this PI thingy without offending anyone too much
[ 05:39:38 ] Hurrr > you mind if I chat here Bre?
[ 05:42:20 ] Bre > go right ahead.
[ 05:42:32 ] Hurrr > have u tried PI yourself?
[ 05:44:18 ] Bre > I’m very bad at it.
[ 05:44:22 ] Bre > it’s why I set up so many.
[ 05:44:24 ] Hurrr > I just wante to see if I could have 2 alts in 2 wormholes..that pays for the account..
[ 05:44:39 ] Hurrr > just make a trip once a month or so..
[ 05:44:56 ] Bre > it’s doable, but honestly you could do that out of a lowsec.
[ 05:44:59 ] Hurrr > that was back when I thought I could make T3 items still 🙁
[ 05:45:04 ] Bre > yeah.
[ 05:45:28 ] Hurrr > low sec is SOO camped though…and so many unfriendly pirates
[ 05:45:55 ] Hurrr > my hope was to find a semi quiet wh..and just puts around on a planet or 3
[ 05:46:20 ] Hurrr > cloak an industrial and just slowly learn how it works..
[ 05:46:30 ] Bre > Sure. Wormholers are generally a warm and fuzzy bunch.
[ 05:46:41 ] Hurrr > now that I can only make T2..not so sure any more..
[ 05:47:57 ] Hurrr > only 47M / mnth per planet..before taxes…
[ 05:48:13 ] Hurrr > not even close to a Plex…..are C4 MUCH richers??
[ 05:48:18 ] Hurrr > do you happen to lknow?
[ 05:48:35 ] Hurrr > I saw u guys had a static C4..and I popped in there..but only 4 barrnes in the one I checked out:(
[ 05:49:16 ] Bre > actually, the quality of the planets is based on the systems truesec.
[ 05:49:22 ] Bre > and all wormholes are -1.0
[ 05:49:40 ] Hurrr > ooh…so only matter for me is number of useful planets..
[ 05:49:53 ] Bre > so all wormholes have the same quality PI
[ 05:50:04 ] Bre > pretty much, yeah.
[ 05:50:08 ] Hurrr > damnit…my stay here might eb shortlived then 🙁
[ 05:51:20 ] Hurrr > Rocket Fuels seems to be about best T2 I can find. I’ll set that up for now.
[ 05:58:22 ] Hurrr > gotta recouperate my stuopid ivnestment before I take off at least 🙂
[ 06:15:45 ] Hurrr > Ok mate….I think I’ll call it for tonight…hope to see you again tomorrow:) hopefully equally peaceful:)

We checked, and sure enough, the guy set up a rocket fuel installation, even though the tax rates for non-corp-members extracting products from the planets would actually cost him more than the product itself will sell for. Unbelievable.

Clearly, he needs to die.

Life in a Wormhole: I don’t even… #eveonline

“Can anyone give me some tips on how to set up Planetary Interaction colonies? I’m hoping my two alts can make enough ISK to pay for my pilot’s license every month.”

Now, normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to give out some advice. I think it’s fair to say I’m generally a pretty helpful guy, but there are few — just a few — things about this particular situation that give me pause.

1. I don’t know the guy asking, and he’s not in my corporation. This isn’t a real deal-breaker, honestly, but it’s first in a series.

2. He’s asking in the /local channel. This is basically like standing in the middle of a park on a Saturday afternoon and speaking in that ‘not quite shouting, but too loud to be ignored’ tone of voice that you most often hear used by the homeless guy arguing with an otherwise innocuous looking lamppost. Again, this is not (strictly speaking) a deal-breaker, until you consider…

3. This is all happening inside our home wormhole system. DING DING DING DING. We have a winner!

That’s right: someone wandered into our wormhole system from high-sec known space, took a look around, decided things looked promising, and started making plans to set up planetary interaction colonies on OUR planets. Then, realizing they knew little about the process, started asking for advice in the /local channel for the wormhole — a channel which is NEVER* used for any* reason, because it gives away your presence. (Unlike known space, the local channel does not populate with the names of the pilots in the system unless they say something, so if you don’t use it and remain stealthy, no one will even know you’re there.)

People, I have to admit I was speechless. That doesn't happen very often.

I didn’t respond immediately.

My first reaction was to try to figure out where the interloper was located. I was already cloaked up and sitting at an out of the way spot in the system, so I spent the next few minutes warping from one corner of the system to the other, checking all points between, and generally scouring the place, looking for my target.

Nothing.

“Hello?” Came the voice again.

Dude.

“There’s a guy talking in /local,” I said to CB, who was running errands outside the system.

“I thought you were in the wormhole,” he replied.

“I *am*.”

“What?” CB began, almost interrupting himself with “Kill him.”

“I would, but I can’t find him. He’s cloaked up somewhere.”

“Where are you?”

“Cloaked up somewhere.”

“Well… what’s he want?”

“He wants advice on where he should set up P.I. on our planets, so that he will make enough money to pay for his monthly account.”

There’s a moment of silence at this.

“You’re shitting me.”

“I am not,” I reply.

CB suggests a couple possible options — some get a bit too complicated to sum up here, but I really do believe a picture can be worth a thousand words.

They all pretty much went something like this.

“Nevermind,” says the pilot. “I need to get going. Talk to you later!”

I blink as my watchlist flashes red.

“He just logged off.”

“He just — in the wormhole?” CB asks.

I rub at my temple, sure that this is going to be the start of a long week. “Yeah.”


Those of you coming directly to randomaverage to check up on our misadventures will have noticed that there’s a new image on the left side of the page. That’s the image for my new book, Hidden Things, which is hitting the shelves in September, thanks to the fine folks at Harper Collins.

Anyway, it seems to me that if you happen to like the stuff I put up here, you might enjoy a book full of words I wrote, even if it doesn’t have any spaceships in it (and only a few mentions of aliens). If you’d like to know more, check out my other web site, where I talk about it some more, gush about how cool I think the cover is, and explain how to win a copy before it’s even released.

Now, with that out of the way, tune in tomorrow to for more adventures of Idiot P.I. Guy!

Life in a Wormhole: Administrivia and Bookmarks #eveonline

First, a note.

I get asked the same basic questions often enough, and find that they are answered by previous posts often enough, that I have compiled a list of those guide-like posts onto a single page that I can now direct people to when necessary.

Now then…

A few days ago, I mentioned that the naming convention for the bookmarks shared at a corporate level in the C6 system was a bit… arcane.

That’s actually being a bit kind. I don’t want to say there is no system at all — there is — but I think it’s fair to say that it’s sloppy and hard to navigate. When I’m in a hurry (say, trying to warp away from pursuers), the last thing I want to deal with is opening a list of possible warp-to points and say “Okay, now… which one of these goes where I want it to go?

Every time I open the Corporate Bookmarks folder.

Now, everyone’s going to have a system that works for them, and in your own private folders, that’s fine, but when you’re sharing bookmarks with others (as the corporate bookmarks folder automatically does), it’s important that the file name (because that’s essentially what it is) conveys a lot of at-a-glance information.

In descending order of importance, here’s the information I think a bookmark for a wormhole needs to convey:

  1. What kind of bookmark it is. (Note, this is true for all bookmarks, while everything after this is basically wormhole specific.)
  2. Where the wormhole originates.
  3. Where the wormhole’s going.
  4. Where it opened from. (Did you open it outward, or did someone else open it in to you.)
  5. When it was opened.
  6. What’s on the other side that’s important.

So let me give you some examples of what that looks like. For this example, let’s assume we live in a class two wormhole, and that we’ve agreed that our wormhole is always going to be referred to as “C2”. (There are many C2s, but this one is ours.)

In addition, any other wormhole will be referred to by its type, plus a sequential letter, so the c4 we connect to will be referred to as “c4a”. If we happen to explore our way into a second c4 on the same day, that would be referred to as “C4b”, and so on.

So here’s a bookmark name:

WH C2 -> HS (MAY15 0310e) Amarr -5

What does that tell us?

  1. This is a Wormhole (WH) bookmark, not a LADAR, RADAR, MAG, GRAV, or any other kind of bookmark.
  2. It originates in the C2.
  3. It is an outbound wormhole. (The -> is pointed away from the c2.)
  4. It connects to High-sec. (HS)
  5. It was opened on MAY15, at 0310 hours, evetime. (O310e) From that, we know the hole will die of old age somewhere around 0300 evetime, MAY16.
  6. The closest market system is Amarr, which is five jumps away. (Amarr -5)

The bookmark for the highsec side of the wormhole would look like this:

WH HS <- C2 (OPTIONAL: System Name.)

That’s quite a bit simpler. Here’s another one:

WH C2 -> C4a (MAY15 0340e) AAA:p5m10

This (obviously fictional) wormhole was opened at 0340 evetime from our C2, into a C4 occupied by “Triple A”, also known as Against All Authorities; their tower is at Planet 5, Moon 10.

Here’s a slightly more worrisome one:

WH C2 <- K162(C6) (???) StarBridge

In this example, we have an inbound wormhole that was opened into our hole from a class six wormhole. We don’t know when it was opened, so we don’t know when it will die. What we do know is that the C6 is held by a corporate member of Star Bridge, a Russian wormhole alliance that can sometimes be a problem for US wormholers.

More extensive notes (who’s been seen using a hole, what kind of ships, et cetera) can be sent out via evemail, posted to the MOTD, or shared via secure mapping tools like Siggy or and API-authenticated version of Wormnav.

Obviously, everyone’s going to have different formats they use to convey this information, but I don’t think anyone will argue that this is all information that’s important to have, and that it should be shared in this or some similar uniform way — the only other rule I’d add to the general guide to naming conventions is “keep it short”, because the file name will truncate in most drop-down lists. If you don’t have a naming method yet (or if it’s terrible) please accept my invitation to start with this method as a jumping off point for a system of your own.

Briefly Topical (#eveonline)

So this was on the login screen for Eve this morning:

In space, no one can hear you mock.

For those who are unaware, Diablo III recently released, and those numbers are Diablo 3 error codes that are preventing people – most people, apparently – from playing.

I have to admit, I laughed hard when I saw it. It’s damn funny.

With that said, it’s kind of the cool thing to laugh at the 800 pound gorilla when he trips and falls. Blizzard is that gorilla, and this is certainly a trip and a fall, so I guess I’m sitting on the bandwagon.

CB made a counterpoint to this; Eve is, as much as he enjoys it, a game with a much smaller player base than Diablo’s (thus far hypothetical) throng of adherents, so to see the devs mock the gorilla when your single-shard server “only” has to deal with roughly 45 thousand simultaneous worldwide logins at a given moment looks a little bit disingenuous.

And maybe it is. CCP has said its current server hardware could theoretically handle upwards of 1 to 1.5 million concurrent players, but who’s to say if that’s true?

Fact is, it doesn’t matter: they are not required to.

Diablo III’s servers, on the other hand, are required to and, more importantly, the fact that they were going to be hit with this kind of load is in no way, shape, or form a surprise. To anyone.

In the words of a certain Burning Crusade trailer, Blizzard was not prepared.

When the 800 pound gorilla falls out of his own tree, I do believe it’s fair to point it out, even if you can’t climb the tree yourself.

“Day One, after Day Z”

May15

18:40
Made it to the coast after our ship went down. Guessing I’m somewhere in Chernarus. Maybe the mountains isolated the population.

18:42
Had to get off the ship to escape the fire. Grabbed a pack, but not mine. Can of beans. Canteen. A flare. Tiny first aid pack. Shitty little makarov and five mags.

18:43
It is, of course, raining.

18:47
Coastal highway gives me two options. I pick a third – into the hills. Coastal towns might have supplies; definitely have armed looters.

18:50
Maybe the country’s clean. Maybe the mountains really did isolate them. That would be nice. For now, I’ll go on assuming the worst.

18:52
I have a map, but it’s useless, if I don’t know where I came ashore. I need landmarks… among other things.

18:55
For instance: canteen’s empty. Need a way to collect this rainwater. And sterilize it. And shelter. And a fire. “Need” is going to be theme.

19:27
Topping the ridge above the coast brings me to roofless ruins of a cottage. On the back slope, a two-rut gravel road leading inland.

20:00
The road is good; I need supplies, and it’ll likely lead to some. Also, bad; too exposed. I keep to the trees, the road in sight.

20:22
Wet pine needles mean even I can move quietly, if I go slow. Also means I hear the walker long before it hears me. Moans travel.

20:23
The walker’s shambling down the gravel road. Where’s he going? What memory persists in a dead mind, enough to move the body?

20:26
I don’t trust the makarov’s accuracy. No way I’m going for a head shot; aim center body mass and squeeze the trigger.

20:27
Good news: the pistol’s sighted in. Bad news: it doesn’t have the stopping power to drop the walker.

20:29
The walker’s reacts instantly, even wounded. Romero’s mall-shambler is gone, replaced by a dead thing spliced with jaguar DNA.

20:31
My head’s ringing, both from the extra three shots it took to drop the walker and the skull crack it gave me before it dropped.

21:23
An hour past the walker, I stumble over a small town in the hills. Spend a half hour trying to figure out where I might be on my map.

21:36
The town crawls. I circumnavigate from south to north, keeping to the trees, and can make out barricades near the town center.

22:16
So, the south end crawls – looks like a walker county fair down there. The north end… is clear. Looks clear. We’ll see.

22:19
With so many walkers within moaning distance, I’d rather keep moving, but I need to at least try to find supplies. Especially water.

22:21
My climb into the hills left me cotton-mouthed; there’s only so much water to be had by licking raindrops off sagging leaves.

22:22
So: water. Canned food if I’m lucky. A better gun if I’m very lucky. Maybe I can spot a road sign and figure out where I am.

22:24
Supplies need to wait. Long since dark. I like my nighttime odds better in the trees than an unfamiliar town with an obvious infestation.

22:25
Signing out for now. Day 1 after Day Z.

– via Twitter, Life After Day Z

What the Hell Did I just Read?

DayZ is a alpha-stage mod for a game called ARMA 2 (a semi-buggy, two-and-a-half year old hyper-realistic multiplayer FPS), set in the zombie-infected country of Chernarus (a Czech Republic analog used as a backdrop in some of the normal ARMA 2 scenarios, and reskinned a bit for DayZ). Even though it is in its alpha stage right now, DayZ has seen such player enthusiasm that this free mod has actually pushed ARMA 2 sales back up into top ten at major online retail sites like Steam.

In the game, you play someone dropped into the zombie-overrun end of the world, your only goal to to survive. “Survival” takes many forms in what can only be called a massive sandbox environment: you might go scrounging for supplies one minute and be running for your life the next; you might team up with other survivors to defend a town, rebuild a truck, or kill the unsuspecting for their supplies. As a true sandbox, the amount of freedom is quite impressive, and the gameplay itself is very immersive.

So it’s just another Zombie mod

Sure. Except it’s not. Somehow, this game has captured more of the feel of books like Mira Grant’s Feed, World War Z, or the Walking Dead graphic novels. In short, it quickly becomes about people, and how they interact. Despite the fact that it’s built on a first person military-style shooter, the game doesn’t really focus on killing zombies (honestly, relying only on the poor starting weapon you’re given, attacking zombies a pretty good way to get killed). You’re given a basic set of supplies and dropped at some random location on the edge of a very large map with no directions or any clue about what to do next. Everything after that is up to you, though finding more supplies is essential for survival — you can die from injuries, blood loss, broken bones, starvation, and dehydration (exacerbated by major exertion like, say, running from zombies) — and you can solve many of these problems by working with other players.

Unless, of course, they decide to kill you, which is just as permanent as any other kind of death.

Yeah… death is permanent in Day Z. Once you die, that character is done, and it’s back to square one, with a tiny pack and meager supplies. In a way that reminds me a lot of another sandbox game I’m very into, failure stings, and success hinges on building relationships, working with others, and sometimes (like it or not) killing people and taking their stuff.

I’ll have more to say about this game in the future, but for now, if you’re on twitter, I’d invite you to follow @After_Day_Z, where I’ll be keeping a survival journal of life in Chernarus.

Life in a Wormhole: Obviously Time to Go #eveonline

“Ty, where are you?”

I don’t know the speaker, but he certainly seems to know me, and he’s talking in the comms channel used by the “c6” corp I’ve joined (though I haven’t actually seen the c6 yet).

“I’m out in Sinq Laison.”

“Grab a gas miner! We need some more people to clear out this system we’re connected to.”

“Oh… um… sure? You have a high-sec exit?”

“Of COURSE we do — we have static connection to high-sec.”

“… you do?”

“Yes. We’re over in the class 1.”

The… what?

It turns out that the corp has a number of pilots — mostly alts and newer players — living in a class one wormhole. Or at least that’s what I’m able to infer; the fleet commander is too busy giving me orders to explain very much background.

“We have an inbound wormhole from a class five, and we’ve scared off the locals in that system, so we’re going to harvest some of their gas. Grab a gasser ship and hurry over!”

This statement gives me pause for a number of reason (not the least of which being the idea that some alts and new pilots ‘scared off’ the residents of a class five wormhole), but dammit… I’ve been trying do SOMETHING with these guys, just to get to know them, and if I can’t get into the class six wormhole, at least I can do this.

Whatever this is.

It’s twenty-five jumps through known space to get to the C1’s entrance, and by the time I get there the fleet commander has herded his pilots into gas-harvesting ships and gotten them into the most profitable of the gas clouds in the neighboring system. I follow the obscurely named bookmarks in my corp folder (more on that in a later post), rushing from wormhole to wormhole, and finally land on the cloud, flip on all my modules, and begin gathering up the gas alongside my new fleetmates. The thorax cruiser I’ve brought in for the task does the job well, and if we happen to get attacked, it’s a relatively cheap ship to lose. That’s the pessimist talking, as we’ve never lost a gas-mining ship in our previous wormhole endeavors, thanks to heads-up play and diligent look-outs watching for —

“I’ve got a unknown Buzzard on d-scan.”

Bye-bye. I’m aligning to our exit wormhole by the second syllable of “buzzard”, and in warp before anyone responds to the scout’s announcement. Conveniently, my hold is full of gas by this point, giving me a second excellent reason to leave.

The first one is the Buzzard, of course. As a covert-ops frigate that can warp around a system cloaked, there are literally only two reasons that ship should ever show up on scans: one, he just logged in; two…

“Looks like he’s dropping combat scanning probes.”

Yup. I land on the wormhole leading back to the c1 system and realize that it’s actually quite wobbly looking. I check my ship’s information on the anomaly (which I hadn’t done on my rush to come and help out) and realize that the wormhole is critically destabilized due to a high number of ships traveling back and forth through the connection. Any reasonably large enemy ship (or friendly ship, for that matter) would probably destroy the wormhole, leaving the whole fleet stranded in an enemy system, and yet they’ve brought in a bunch of ships to collect gas.

That seems a little... reckless?

“Don’t worry about the probes,” I hear the FC say. “Just keep pulling gas. If you get full up, dump it out to cans. We’ll pick them up when the Op is over.”

When it’s over? I might be a bit overcautious, but I’d say the op was over when someone spotted a non-friendly ship scanning down your unarmed fleet of newbie pilots in a verified hostile system with a tenuous route home.

Whatever. Not my op. I jump back through the hole and align to the tower to dump off the gas. It might be the only gas they actually retrieve out of this op, and at this rate I think they might need the profit to help replace ships.

“The probes are –”

“I’ve got a tengu on scan.”

“Same here.”

“Two Tengus, actually.”

“Two? I don’t… oh, there it is. Yeah. Two tengus.”

I jettison the gas into a storage canister and nod to myself. The buzzard isn’t a big threat in and of itself, but with two strategic cruisers as backup, the little ship is basically the point of a very jagged spear. Obviously, now is the time —

“Just ignore them,” I hear the FC say. “They haven’t found us yet. We’ll leave when it’s obviously time to go.”

WTF did I just hear?

I look over my ship’s fittings. Five gas harvesters. Three ECCM modules. Cargo expanders. Five ECM drones. Not exactly the most intimidating array of firepower. I don’t have clearance (apparently) to get into any of the ship hangars in this tower, either, so there are no other ship options here for me — no way I can help, other than calling out an FC I’ve never met, in the middle of my first Op with a new corp.

“FC,” I say, “Ty’s dropped off his gas at the tower. I’m sorry I can’t stay longer.”

“No problem — we’ll probably be done here in 20 minutes or so, anyway.”

Yes, I think to myself. I imagine you will.

With that, I warp back to the wormhole leading back to known space, and try to get as far away as I can before the inevitable screams of the innocent begin.

Sometimes, boys and girls, "Trust" is not the appropriate response.

Life in a Wormhole Eve: For the Republic! #eveonline

Our wormholes-of-note (both our class 2 and the class 6) continue to have absolutely abysmal connections — the class 2 system is connected to high-sec, yes, but it’s out in a CONCORD-controlled hi-sec ‘pocket’ of systems deep in the lawless Aridia region, over a dozen jumps from contiguous high-sec and another thirty-five jumps from anywhere useful. Everyone already in the wormhole stays there, and I’m left to my own devices back in civilization.

My ‘what to do’ solution is to return to my ‘repair my standing with the Minmatar Republic’ project. Rather than a series of normal missions, I’ve decided to run through some of the “Cosmos” missions available for the Minmatar. COSMOS missions are special, in that each mission can only ever be run once per pilot, and are generally quite a bit tougher than normal missions of the same ‘tier’, which makes them a bit more interesting. Each of the four major factions have a constellation where all their COSMOS agents hang out, and the Minmatar constellation isn’t far from the section of Gallente space I’m in, so I hop into my Ishtar heavy assault cruiser (which I expect will be small enough to be allowed into most of the sites I plan to run) and head over.

Things go all right for the first few missions, but get considerably more complicated when I realize that some of the missions involve hauling large quantities of stuff around. The Ishtar is many things, but ‘capacious’ isn’t one of them, so I’m forced to pick up a cheap hauler to move the macguffin crates back and forth.

Luckily, this doesn’t take long (and I can watch MLP on Netflix while I jump from system to system), and soon I’m back in the Ishtar… only to be told that HACs are “too big” to fit into the next mission (never mind that it’s the exact same hull as a normal vexor cruiser). So it’s back to the market to pick up some cruiser-sized ship. What’s available?

No… no… no… no… no… Oh, here’s one. A Stabber? Really? That’s the best cruiser hull available within 11 jumps?

Minmatar: Good firepower. Little light on the armor.

(Note to self: haul 25 rupture-class hulls out Nakugard, marked up 25%. Profit.)

So I get in my new… stabber… and prepare to speed-tank a LOT of NPC pirates.

Well… if nothing else, flying a stabber in level 3 cosmos missions is a lot more exciting than using a Ishtar. I mean, who needs hull integrity? Not the Minmatar, baby!

For the Rebublic!

I run through all the COSMOS missions in the first system in the constellation with at least a dozen more agents to go, and realize that I don’t need to move on to the next system, because the (massive!) boosts to my standing for each of these one-time-only missions is enough to finally put me over the top on my Minmatar Republic standings, finally returning me to the coveted ranks of the “truly beloved less objectionable Gallente dilettantes soiling our stations with their perversions.”

Which I choose to count as a victory.

Life in a Wormhole Eve: Incursion Sissy #eveonline

One of the options tossed around when we first left our old system was “let’s just forget wormholes for awhile and run Incursions.” This was mildly amusing because none of us have ever done Incursions in any way, and we know next to nothing about them.

The basic idea behind Incursions in Eve is that there are randomly occurring invasion events happening all the time around New Eden, driven by Sansha’s Nation, an NPC “pirate” faction (really more of a rogue state) living on the edge of space in the accurately named Stain region. The Nation is supposed to be a utopian society “based around the exploitation of brainwashed slave labor and a small, cybernetically-enhanced elite”, so… you know… “utopian” as long as your not one of the brainwashed slaves, I guess? Anyway, the nation got curb-stomped about a hundred years back, but it survived and rebuilt until it was strong enough to launch daily attacks against any constellation in known space, at any time. (Pretty serious rebuilding success, if you ask me.)

I’ve read up on Incursions in the past (it was actually the storyline behind the Incursions that first drew me back to Eve after giving it a pass four years previous), but as they are pretty much exclusively group content (profitable activities start in the 10-man range and go up to 80-man fleets) requiring well-fit battlecruisers at a minimum, it really didn’t turn out to be something I could do when I started playing, despite the fact that that was WHY I started playing — good marketing on CCP’s part, with a shitty payoff for anyone the expansion actually lured in.

Anyway, with time on our hands and a really phenomenal string of bad connections to the c6 (and the c2, actually), we’ve decided to try out Incursions to see what the big deal is.

In order to accomplish this with a minimum of fuss, Dirk suggests that we set up a time to do it over on the Singularity server (which is inexplicably abbreviated “SiSi” by the player base). This idea provides a number of benefits:

  • We don’t have to know how the ins and outs of the Incursion-running “society”. Since it’s a profitable activity that requires a lot of people to do successfully, a whole bureaucracy has sprung up around Incursions on the live server. There’s the public channel for incursion group recruiting… which no one uses. Then there’s the channels just for the Shield fleet doctrines, and another for the Armor fleet doctrines… both with notices about which incursion is being ‘primaried’ by which channel… except now people aren’t really using those channels any more, because they’re too mainstream, and all the real hipster incursion runners have their own private, invite-only channels where they organize their groups. Yeah. Screw that.
  • We don’t have to have all the Incursion waves/pulls/triggers memorized, because SiSi is currently running the new version of the Incursions that is about to be released on the live server, and these new incursions don’t have ship triggers and fancy ways you can blitz through and run the sites in a few minutes; in the new Incursions the wave composition is semi-random, you kill all the bad guys (focusing on the more dangerous or annoying ones first), then more bad guys show up. Simple. Provided you do your job well, you should be fine.

So we log into SiSi with only six pilots, and head toward the nearest Incursion. Obviously, no one is running Incursions on the test server, so Sansha’s Nation is running rampant in the constellation we’ve selected, which gives us a bunch of disadvantages, not the least of which being the fact that we’re running the sites about 4 pilots below optimal fleet composition, with only two Scimitar-class logistics ships (myself and Dirk) and four DPS (CB, Shan, Em, and Si in a mix of t1 battlecruisers and t1 battleships).

Honestly? We should probably explode hilariously, but what actually happens is we run a couple sites and it’s no big deal, once we figure out which ships need to die to keep our logistics ships from getting jammed. It’s basically like fighting sleepers.

I know on the live server, our little group would never work — Incursion sites can be ‘contested’ (run by multiple gangs of pilots) with 100% of the rewards for that site going to whoever hurt the Nation the most, and we obviously aren’t going to outmatch a blinged-out fleet of 10 pilots with our ragtag band of tech1 ships and novice logistics pilots (though we could probably do quite all right by sneaking out to the largely-ignored incursions that spawn in low-sec and setting up lookouts, even if we only got paid for the ship bounties). No, I get that; we can’t fly these ships and expect to ‘beat’ the other incursion-fighting fleets.

But never let anyone tell you you can’t bring a well-fit, non-pimped hurricane into an incursion site and contribute; never let anyone tell you that ship will explode instantly. That’s just plain wrong. Yes, the fights are moderately interesting (for PvE), and the Sansha are (sadly) probably as tough as any npc PvE targets in EvE — roughly on par with Sleepers.

But that doesn’t make them impossible. Hell, for the (allegedly) 10-man sites, it doesn’t even make them that hard.

Anyway, that’s how we spend the next few hours and, once we’ve taken the measure of the Incursion sites, running them about as ‘hard’ as we can (all buffs in favor of the Nation, half-sized fleet of non-optimal ships and non-maxed pilot skill sets, with no previous Incursion experience), our curiosity is sated, and we head back to the live server to do something productive.

Life in a Wormhole: Wading through the Muck #eveonline

I’ve left my notebook elsewhere today, so I guess I’ll be forced to rely on my own shoddy memory of the days following our move into the Summer Cottage.

And as far as that wormhole system goes, things are pretty straightforward; the tower is online, all our pilots are setting up planetary interaction colonies, and we’re busy enough that we leave our static connection to class four wormhole space largely alone.

Unfortunately, we can’t really leave our high-sec exit alone, due to the pilots who need to fly in and out of the hole to get supplies or bring in ships, which means it’s somewhat difficult to safely do anything about all the anomalies and signature in our system.

And there are certainly enough of those — after scanning, Bre reports at least a half-dozen mining sites, twice as many Ladar-emiting signatures, and quite a few Radar and Magnometric signatures as well. Awesome, we if could do anything about all of that, but we can’t and in the meantime they seriously clutter up our scanning, complicate security, and slow us down. Painful executive decisions must be made, and that means I get to fly around to the least desireable of the Gravimetric and Ladar sites to activate their timers and hopefully clear them out of our sky in a day or two.

Meanwhile, we’re talking with the U.S. contingent of the corporation that lives in the class six wormhole, trying to work out a good time to move a few ships up there for a test run. Our schedules don’t seem to mesh very well, though, as we have more than a little trouble just getting on comms at the same time, let along coordinating a move. The majority of the corporation appears to be in UK and EU timezones, which means there’s limited time in which we’re online at the same time, and they seem to prefer to use that conversational window to nag me about the fact that we haven’t gotten moved up to the c6 yet. Awesome first impression.

I’m trying to keep some momentum on things, so I drop membership in our corp and apply to theirs, just to show we’re interested. This does seem to buy us a bit of good luck, as we actually manage to line up a good entrance to the c6 the next evening. Em, Shan, Dirk, and I all jump into assault frigates and head toward the entrance, but in mid-trip I get a message request from someone interested in buying the old wormhole.

There hasn’t been a lot of movement on this front, so this warrants a full-stop to our current plans in case the deal goes through — if the sale actually happens, we’ll need to help move our friend’s tower out of the system. I negotiate a reasonable if not great price, and contact a broker at Taggarts to manage the transaction the following evening. The buyer balks at using a broker, but seems to come around when I explain that the deal simply isn’t going to happen without that fraud protection in place.

We make our apologies to the guys in the c6, and wait for the deal to close the next day.

… which of course doesn’t happen, as the buyer backs out. Was the price too costly, or was the guy simply unable to figure out a way to con me out of a wormhole with a broker involved? Who knows? Certainly not me.

In any case, we’ve been delayed a day, and the new exit from the C6 is in the ass-end of Aridia. I’d make a run for it through low-security space, but my future roommates are already heading out for the night.

All in all, the last couple days have been a pillowfight of productivity: lots of movement, but not much to show for it.

Life in a Wormhole: Proud Mary #eveonline

We’ve left our jobs in the cities and trade hubs of known space and returned to the wild river of Anoikis. Shan and Em are busying themselves with setting up planetary colonies (after convincing me to set the tax rates on the customs offices high enough to ‘pay off’ my investment in the system as quickly as possible). Meanwhile, Bre is moving most of her main ships into the tower, since she’s decided to stay here rather than travel up to the class six wormhole (where the system effects seriously cripple most of the ships she flies most often). I’ll be glad to have at least one veteran permanently active in our little home in the Space Hamptons, though I suspect there may be a few more as time goes on.

Other ships are coming in as well; even those pilots heading to the c6 are leaving one or two pointy ships for system defense and impromptu system pruning (which the c2 needs quite badly).

It’s good that we do, because we decide to wrap up a day of setting up colonies with some sleeper shooting, netting all our pilots 50 or 60 million isk each for an hours work. All in all a fine way to christen our new summer cabin.

Life in a Wormhole: A Brief Critique #eveonline

“Fuck everything,” mutters CB, “about this tower interface.” Two days have passed since we moved into a new wormhole, and he is helping me anchor the last of the defensive modules outside the force field.

“It’s… pretty bad,” I agree, dragging another module to where I want it. “It used to be even slower.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been doing this for two days…” CB says. “And two different systems before this one. I guess should just stop bitching.”

He pauses. “But seriously, fuck everything about this tower interface.”

Life in a Wormhole: Closing the Deal #eveonline

Two of the three corps who used to live in our old wormhole system have moved out, with one still manning their tower to maintain a presence there and to give the rorqual somewhere to live; the system is for sale. [Author’s Note: this is STILL the case, so if anyone wants to buy a class two wormhole with lowsec/C2 exits, POCOs on all the planets, and a Rorqual, contact me.]

I presented a number of corporations/alliances to our pilots, listing pros and cons, and the corp that whimsically likes to run high-end sleeper anomalies in assault frigates caught everyone’s fancy. The only thing delaying our move into this system with our main characters is getting our old wormhole sold, really.

Meanwhile, I found myself sitting out in known space, bored, with too much liquid ISK on hand. This usually ends in some kind of head-shaking/-smacking hilarity; in this case it meant I won a [mumble]illion isk bid for a wormhole with easy high-sec access and a perfect setup for planetary interaction. After some discussion with everyone else this is actually deemed a not-horrible thing, so rather than back out of the deal I go forward with it — it will provide our alts (and some main characters with no interest in the class six wormhole) a place to hang out, shoot sleepers, mug high-sec tourists, and run ridiculously complicated, semi-profitable planetary interaction colonies.

Or is that ridiculously profitable and semi-complicated? I honestly can't remember anymore.

Em and I are discussing the logistics of getting set up — obviously we already have a tower and defensive modules — hell, Berke still has them in his orca from when we took them down in the last wormhole (it’s not like it was that long ago) — but I’m going to have to set up Player Owned Customs Offices on all the planets, and Em did that in our last system, so I’m picking his brain to get a shopping list of all the stuff I’ll need for all umpteen planets.

The list is pretty extensive. And expensive. Whew. Turns out I’m going to spend as much on the POCO parts as I did on the wormhole itself. Yikes.

“Do you want me to pick all the parts up?” Em asks. “I’m already in a market system.”

“Leave it until we close the deal for sure,” I reply. “It might still fall through.”

Our Taggarts broker is on the ball, however, and gets everyone where they need to be for a quick and relatively simple transfer of hole ownership (in which the broker holds the buyer’s money until everyone is satisfied, then takes their cut and pays everyone else accordingly). While they wait for the green light, I take the contracted bookmark coordinates, jump into the wormhole system, and use combat scanners to verify that the only man-made stuff in the system is dead and semi harmless (an abandoned, picked-over tower in the system will need to be completely destroyed at some point, but isn’t a serious problem right now).

Meanwhile, Em, Shan, Berke, and CB are hauling all essential supplies toward the entry system.

“How’s it look?” asks the broker.

“Pretty good,” I reply, recalling my probes and hitting directional scan. Something catches my eye. “I… can’t help but notice that all the custom’s offices are owned by a player corporation, not NPCs.”

“Yep,” says the seller. “Once you’re happy, our director will transfer ownership of all the POCOs over to you guys. Should only take a few minutes.”

“Right, right…” I say, trying to keep my voice calm. I switch comms over to Em, Shan, and CB. “So… you know this system I’m buying?”

“Yeah.”

“You know how I figured it was worth [mumble]illion?”

“Yeah.”

“You know how we figured that getting enough player-owned structures set up in the system would cost us just as much as what I bid for the system?”

“Yeah.”

“Well…” I drag the word out. “The corp selling the hole already set POCOs up, and they’re just giving them to us.”

There is a long pause.

“What?”
“Dude…”
“Seriously?”

“We are getting this wormhole for, basically, the hardware cost of the installed structures,” I say.

Em is the first to speak. “Close this deal before they figure that out.”

I do that thing, with many compliments (as always) to the Taggart’s broker.

“Be careful,” says the seller, just before he leaves. “There are a bunch of guys from a wormhole corp out in the high-sec system connected to the wormhole.”

“It’s okay,” I assure him. “I’m pretty sure that’s just the moving crew.”

“Wow, you guys move fast.”

The comms channel closes, and it’s time to get to work.

Life in a Wormhole: So Now What? #eveonline

[Before I get started, some of you may know that I’ve been dealing with lots of sick kid issues that have started to seem like Something More. I have updates on that (and good news) over here, for those who care to know. Now on with the show!]

I won the bid on the wormhole, of course (Murphy’s Law would have it no other way). With no desire to get into some kind of bidding war (I’m not much of a haggler offline, either), I’d simply opened with the amount I thought the system was worth, and apparently shut down any other interested parties who’d started low and planned to work their way up.

I still had options — the most EvE-like being a quick email to the broker saying “LOL just kidding” and carry on as if nothing had happened — but backing out of the bid rubbed me the wrong way, and frankly it was a pretty good system, depending on what we did with it.

Maybe.

I decided to get some input from Em and Shan and let them know of my special brand of recklessness.

“You bought a wormhole?” Em asked.

“I won the bid,” I corrected. “The deal’s not done yet.”

“What… so…” He seemed to be seesawing between head-shaking amusement and incredulity. “Are you not going to do the C6 thing?”

“Well, first of all, I can always just back out of it.”

“Sure.”

“But… no. I’m still planning on the c6 thing, but this seemed like a really good backup plan and maybe something we could sort of do on the side.”

“On the side?” Em repeated. “A second wormhole?”

“What system is it?” Shan asked (quietly, as he does most things).

I gave him the system signature. “I figure there’s pretty much perfect Planetary Interaction, and it’s got a persistent connection to high sec, so it’s easy to get to, and we have plenty of alts who aren’t going to be doing anything in the c6, so they can handle day to day stuff and basic defenses. We can keep it kind of pruned down by running a few sleeper sites when nothing else is going on, and the other static connection is into class 4 wormholes, so even if the c6 doesn’t work, we can switch to the c2 and still be able to find harder sites to run and some better PvPers.”

“Huh,” murmured Shan. “It’ll let us make silicone.” He and Em had been using P.I. products in the last wormhole to make nanite repair paste, but the system hadn’t had everything they’d needed — I’d heard them mentioning the need to haul in multiple loads of silicone in the past.

“It lets you make anything,” I said. “I mean, the PI alone would pay for the system in a month or less, right?”

“Yeah…” said Shan. He’s quite adept with Planetary Interaction set ups, and based on what he’s told me, it’s possible (with about 10 days of pilot skill training) to set up planetary colonies that will net as much as 300 million isk in passive income, per character, per month. I’m personally terrible at setting such things up, but it sure sounds like something worth getting better at, and anyway I just really like the idea of being able to do something that will let all the guys make some easy money. I’ve got more than enough operating capitol, but some of the newer pilots aren’t as well-off — for them, the passive income from setting up PI on their main and even one alt on the same account would make a huge difference in the kinds of options they have. Teach a man to fish, as they say…

“So… you’re saying buy the system. Set up a tower, and mostly just run P.I. in it?” asks Em.

“And keep it as a backup,” I say, “or a place for some guys who aren’t ready for the c6 to hang out and do their thing.”

“Okay,” says Em. “I thought you were crazy, but that actually sounds pretty cool.”

“So you think I should do it?”

“And set up the Custom’s Offices for some really high tax rate until you make back all the money you paid for it,” he adds. “We can all make money after that, and you’ll be paid off in case someone comes in and blows it all up.”

His reasoning is pessimistic and entirely accurate and realistic. Welcome to EvE.

Life in a Wormhole: Bad Influence #eveonline

A day has gone by, and I’m still terrorizing the enemies of the Minmatar Republic in my Ishkur assault frigate, which is easily enough to deal with any of the level 3 missions I’m given. The evening is quiet; all of our Red Frog hauling contracts have come in, everyone’s belongings have been returned to the right hangars at our corporate offices, and most have taken the night off. It’s just me on our shared comms until CB logs in.

“Evening, evil slave trader.”

“Yo. How’s that Minmatar standing looking?”

“Die in a fire. What’re you doing?”

“Nada. Looking at that ship fit you sent over for running around a wolf-rayet system.”

“Doable?”

“Yep. You think we’re going to do it? I’ll put it together if we are.”

“Yeah, it’s really starting to look like it. I can’t decide if people like it because it’s crazy, or because we only have to commit a couple ships, there’s nothing else to move in, and if we don’t like it we can leave easily.”

“Probably both.”

“Probably.” My email flashes, and I open it and read while dodging Angel pirate cruisers and letting my drones chew through the enemy ships. “Oh, this is hilarious.”

“What is?”

I forward the email to him. “Taggarts just listed a wormhole for sale. Pretty much exactly the one we’ve been saying for six months that we wanted to move into.” I scan the stats for the system on Wormnav. “Jesus. Perfect set up for planetary interactions. You can make everything in there. Hell, if you did nothing else but that, you’d still basically be printing money. And those static wormhole exits…” I shake my head. “That’s going to go for a lot.”

“How much?”

I tell him.

“I’ll throw in 400 million,” he says. “Right now. Bid on it.”

“Nah…” I shake my head. “Everyone’s gung-ho for the c6 insanity. Em and I have talked about a new system, but he doesn’t think we have enough people for a solo wormhole setup if more than a few of us take the night off. Logoffs breed logoffs.”

“We did just fine with just you and me and Gor,” CB counters, echoing my own thoughts on the matter. “And if someone wants us blowed up good, we’re gonna blow up good, no matter how many people we have.”

“True.”

“Bid on it, you know you want to,” he says. “We’ll set up PI and couple towers, and if everything else falls through, we have a cool backup plan.”

“Eh.”

“Biiiiid on it,” he repeats. “Don’t make me start hiding slaves in your cargo bays again.”

“What do you mean, ‘again’?” I look at the email, check my bank balance, and decide I have too much money laying around. I shoot a quick email off to the broker (who I’ve worked with before on other sales), putting in a bid a bit below what I think the hole is really worth, but still a big chunk of change. I expect I’ll be outbid quickly, and have no intention of going any higher. If I get outbid, this is all harmless, and if it isn’t, I got a pretty good deal.

“It’s in.”

“What is?” asks CB.

“The bid.”

He laughs. “Holy shit, you actually put a bid in?” There’s a pause. “I mean… cool.”

I rub at my temples. “So much hate.”

“You love it and you know it.”

“So. Much. Hate.”

Life in a Wormhole: …Really? #eveonline

Since leaving our old wormhole, the recurring question has been “what now?” There’s been a little discussion of  non-wormhole options — mostly “maybe I should try Incursions”, but that’s a bit like saying “I should become a day trader”; it sounds like it would make money, but I don’t know anyone who does it, don’t really know where to start, and there’s a good  chance the structure and drama would quickly annoy me. Anyway, aside from saying “we should try that sometime, just to say we have”, all other options involve wormholes in some way, ranging from ‘move to an alliance system’ to ‘just get our own hole and forget everyone else’ to ‘ join up with someone else entirely’.

Now, at the point where we left the wormhole, no one was talking about future plans, at least in part because we didn’t want to get into that conversation with friends who were also leaving but whose plans didn’t necessarily mesh with ours. Em and I have talked about this, weighing the pros and cons of staying in the alliance (the downsides we know) versus some other option (the downsides we don’t). For me and CB, the pros of a fresh start outweigh the cons, but for Em and the Walrus guys the thought is “if we go somewhere else, it should be somewhere that’s clearly different and better for us than where we already are.”

And hunting for a solution has fallen to me, or at least I feel responsible for doing the legwork, since I accelerated the timeline of moving out of the old wormhole (forcing other folks to act/react), and am making “staying together” harder by not just moving into another alliance-owned system.

Luckily, there are a number of good options I have readily available, simply because when we originally joined the alliance, I’d done similar research and found a few other options that I’d really thought were interesting. To be honest, some of them I liked better than the alliance we settled on, but they were vetoed by Gor (or preemptively by me, since I knew Gor would) because they were single corporations, rather than alliances, and Gor wanted to maintain the security that comes from being the person in charge of the corporation you’re in — in short, he didn’t want to join a corp and give someone else the ability to see what he had in his station hangars, and since this is EvE, it’s pretty hard to argue with his caution.

That said, Gor’s not actively playing now, so wormhole corporations that we can join individually, rather than alliances we’d join as a corporation are back on the menu, and I propose a couple that I like to the guys (Lone Star Exploration and The Night Crew). The appeal of either of these corps is the attitude, the history, the personalities of the guys in charge, and the fact that they both seem to have little to no interest in the political machinations present between some wormhole groups.

I also mention that the CEO who recently led those cloaky tech3 cruisers into our system would really like us to join them, but the response to that is a bit like my reaction to news that Bioware is releasing new DLC for Mass Effect 3.

Why yes: as a matter of fact, I *am* still bitter.

The guys will laugh to read this (since they can pull up the hundreds of pages of emails these conversations generated), but I try pretty hard to simply present the pros and cons of the various groups my research turns up, link to their recruitment information, and step back out of the way to let people chew it over. As I said, I feel like I’ve put us all in this situation, so I’ve resigned myself to go along with whatever the group decides. (I don’t always succeed in this passive presentation model, because frankly it’s not in my nature, but at least I try.)

Anyway, the pros and cons are weighed.

This goes on for a bit.

It has been going on, actually, for the better part of a week. I distract myself with running missions for the Minmatar Republic (mumblegrumble CB). The problem is that every group I mention carries with it some concern or yellow flag for someone — obviously, there’s never going to be a perfect solution, but it seems like we can’t come within targeting range of a consensus.

Then, while browsing reddit, I come across screenshots from some crazy wormhole corp whose members are apparently using the strange effects of their home system to run high level Sleeper sites… in assault frigates — ships that should, by all accounts, be instantly vaporized.

I post an email into the thread where we’ve been talking about various wormhole corporations, putting in nothing but the reddit screenshot and the caption “or we could join these guys.”

The reaction was… not what I expected.  I see excitement, amusement… interest. I don’t know if it’s because it seems like something different, or because it seems like they’re a bit crazy, or simply because it seems like they just don’t take everything so bloody seriously as 9 of every 10 wormhole corps, but for whatever reason, the guys are very interested in this unknown band of misfits.

I am asked to make contact.

Life in a Wormhole: Manning the Barricades #eveonline

[Something very strange happened yesterday, and because of that this post didn’t show up on the website, nor did it actually save in WordPress. It *did* however show up in my RSS feed (which is apparently subscribed to an alternate timeline of my life), so I was able to grab it from there and repost it here… for the first/second time yesterday/today. The time loop is closed. Or… opened? Wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey. ]

No, we’re not under attack again; the title comes from a question posed by Patito in the comments of the last post:

Given recent events, I’m rather curious what your opinions are about the number of pilots needed to reliably and safely work a wormhole. Specifically in your opinion, what is the minimum number of pilots needed (assuming all in the same timezone and relatively similar play schedules) to make living in a C2 pleasant? As I understand it, when you run with smaller numbers someone might come along and decide you need to be removed and there’s not much you can do about it.

So this is really two questions, about which (I have learned) everyone’s opinions are going to differ. (Since we moved out of our old system, we’ve been talking a lot about what we want to do next, and part of that discussion process exposes everyone’s thoughts on how many people we “need” to accomplish given tasks.)

Making Living Pleasant
Let’s address these two questions in order, starting with “how many people do you need to make living in a wormhole pleasant?” I’ll mostly stick to talking about the lower-end wormholes, because (a) that’s what he asked about and (b) that’s what I know the most about. That said, the differences between living in a c2 versus a c5 are largely those of scale, so most of this should broadly apply anywhere in Anoikis.

To an extent, it depends on what you want to do in the wormhole. If the basic idea is that you want to just shoot the local sleepers for their loot, run some planetary interaction, maybe occasionally poke around in your connecting systems or something, then you don’t need many folks at all, especially if any of the players have an alt account who can sit on a second screen and be your passive lookout while you’re doing something that leaves you vulnerable. Class Two sleeper anomalies can be soloed reasonably easily in about twenty minutes or so with decent combat skills, and the same amount of isk can be made from gas clouds or asteroid fields in roughly the same amount of time. A few extra people makes it go much faster, to the point where even if you split the loot from a group effort, you’re doing as well or better than you would be on your own — good design, CCP! Bottom line, you can make about 60 to 80 million isk in an hour in a c2 wormhole, whether you’re alone or with a couple friends. It was just me, CB, and Gor in our first wormhole, and we were fine: our own paranoia and inexperience hampered us more than anything, really — we didn’t see some of the features of our system as the opportunities they were.

There are benefits to a decent class two system in terms of PvP as well: Class two systems are unique among wormholes in that they all have two guaranteed wormhole connections, rather than one. This automatically gives you multiple options in terms of people to shoot. Our second wormhole (the one we recently left) was an explorer’s dream, as it connected to additional class two wormhole space, which meant we were guaranteed no less than two additional wormholes to poke around in every day, plus a connection to PvP-friendly low-sec in the other direction. Our only mistake there, in terms of having someone to shoot, was that we kept the entrances closed much of the time, which meant we lowered our chances of getting tourists in from known space. Eventually, we rectified that.

Regardless of your known-space connections, there are opportunities: a persistent connection to high-sec left open and inviting can be hilarious fun (more on that in a few days), low-sec gives you immediate access to individuals who are frequently only out for a good fight, and a null-sec gives you a chance to roam through vast, largely uninhabited space without the need to worry about low-sec gate guns and other annoying technical issues. The same spread of opportunities exists when you start looking at your wormhole-space exits as well: Class 1 and Class 3 systems often house pilots who don’t expect a fight since those two types of wormholes do not enjoy persistent connections to wormhole space, where as Class 4 and higher systems tend to attract pilots looking for a good fight and more comfortable with long stretches of time away from known space.

Obviously, if you’re going to be more active with your PvP, you may want a few more people online, especially if you’re looking to do something other than stealthy covert ganking of unsuspecting soft targets (the meat and potatoes on most most wormhole PvP menus) — even sitting off an open high-sec exit waiting for an unsuspecting explorer to jump in requires a bit of commitment and maybe an extra set of eyes to do it right. In our first wormhole we were lucky to share the system with a German corporation. Between us, we were able to keep eyes on the system much of the time. In our second home, we had more pilots around, but all on the same timezone. This made it easier to ‘do something’ during our primetime, but far more blind during our off hours.

Too many pilots makes things somewhat more difficult in another direction, of course: in our second home, all of our pilots logging in at the same time usually meant that some system was about to be stripped to the bone like a cow dropped into a hazy cloud of piranha. That said, I think that for the health and longevity of your group it’s often better to err on the side of slightly too many pilots for your available resources rather than slightly too few — many hands will generally always make light work, the profits available in a wormhole usually scales pretty well, and unexpected PvP opportunities are always more easily handled when you have more people around on your side to join in. Conversely, with fewer pilots you might easily find yourself in a situation where you must pass an opportunity by (either for PvE or PvP) simply because you don’t have enough people (or the “right” people) to take advantage.

So… what does that all mean? I guess “it depends”. I’m a huge fan of Penny’s blog Tiger Ears, which features two pilots (and a rotating background cast) living quite happily out of a class four wormhole. They’ve had to take a breather in k-space when things got too hot, but generally they make it work, and work quite well. Based on that, I think you can easily make an argument for as few as one smart, active player doing quite well in a wormhole (though that sounds like it would get pretty boring after awhile).

By the same token, the idea of being part of a corporation with dozens of active members, all in the same high-class wormhole also appeals to me — good odds of there always being someone else on when you want to do something, and of there being enough people on to do whatever catches your fancy.

The only thing I don’t think works very well is a situation where you have pilots spread out over a bunch of systems, whether you’re all in the same corp or in dozens — it’s just a good way to guarantee that you’ll never be where you need to be. A couple systems, maybe with exits that make it easy to move back and forth? Fine. Otherwise…

A Question of Survival

To refresh your memory, the last part of the question was:

As I understand it, when you run with smaller numbers someone might come along and decide you need to be removed and there’s not much you can do about it.

I wanted to address this separately, because I think there’s a difference between “having enough people to effectively live in a wormhole and enjoy yourselves” and “having enough people to keep from getting your head caved in by a fleet of battleships.”

It’s possible to do that first thing fairly easily. However when it comes to hole defense in the face of a determined and/or powerful attacker, you will either have enough people or you won’t — it’s somewhat out of your hands, because if a group seriously wants to burn your stuff, then they will probably do that, unless you are very lucky or extremely dedicated.

Really, that statement should read: “When you [live in a wormhole] someone might come along and decide you need to be removed.” Period and full stop. Whether you have only a few members or over a hundred will not change what a determined opponent will do — it will only affect how many people they bring along to do it.

Those cloaky tech 3 cruisers we dealt with over the last couple months were all members of an alliance with more than enough active members to stage a successful tower siege — they have the means and the manpower and the resources — they didn’t do that because they didn’t want to do it, pure and simple, and if they had wanted to the end result would have simply boiled down to who had a deeper roster of people willing to come help or who had a deeper wallet with which to hire mercenaries.

Basically, moving into a wormhole in EvE is a lot like undocking a ship — you need to leave the station with assumption that the ship you’re in is already lost. Maybe not today — you might get lucky — but eventually, it’s scrap. If you move into a wormhole, write that investment off — as soon as you anchor and online a tower, accept the fact that you might never be given the opportunity to take it down again under your own terms. Assume it’s gone.

Maybe not today — you might get lucky — but eventually.

If things go better than that, you’ll feel really good; if they don’t, you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a dirty little secret about wormholes: they haven’t made me rich. I have pretty much exactly the same amount of liquid Isk as I did the first day we moved into our first wormhole, well over a year ago. (Although it’s fair to say I have more wealth in assets than I did.) Wormholes let me have the kind of fun I enjoy, in the amounts I like to have it, and generally break even. If I get ahead for awhile, I’m sure Berke will lose another Orca during a hole crash; if I get behind, that’ll be the week I find a really sweet wormhole to sell on the market. It works out.

And if someone shows up with fifty battleships in formation around my tower?

Well, I’ll put up a hell of a fight. I’ll throw every ship I can at them. I’ll use all the tower defenses that I have at my disposal, because I went to great effort to set up a tower that is as defensible as I could make it. But if they have more firepower and equal will, they’re going to win. At some point, I’m going to wake up in a clone out in high-sec, and I’ll have to start over.

Which is exactly what I’ll do.

What I’m trying to say in this (very long) answer to that (very tricky) question is that you should try to have enough people around you to do whatever it is you want to do, but don’t cripple yourself by saying you don’t yet have enough people to defend against some hypothetical tower-crushing assault. You don’t. You never will — they will just bring more people. If you join a big alliance to *get* that kind of protection, you’re going about things the wrong way — an alliance can help you with your corporation-sized problems, but once you join that alliance, you won’t have corporation-sized problems anymore; your problems become alliance-sized: you attackers won’t send enough people to take you out — they’ll send enough people to take you-and-your-allies out, or they won’t come at all.

Or they’ll show up in cloaky gank ships, which isn’t a problem you can beat with numbers, regardless.

Life in a Wormhole: Shopping List #eveonline

“So what are you looking for now?”

“In… what? A wormhole?” I’m distracted when Em asks his question, puttering around in the Placid region and running random missions for my Minmatar contacts to repair my once-sterling reputation with their faction.

You see, CB likes to collect “NPC” items — at one point, long ago, I counted well over 100 individuals milling around “The Party Hangar” in our old tower in the wormhole — a mix of militants, mercenaries, tourists, homeless, Damsels, and (of course) many exotic dancers.

He also had a fair number of “slaves” that he’d picked up at various ports of call.

Anyway, when we were moving out of the wormhole, he tossed his hard-partying vagrants into whatever cargo bay they would fit, like packing material to keep the secure containers from shifting. Distribution was random and unpredictable. Generally, it wasn’t a big deal, until I tried to contract with Red Frog to ship our stuff home from whatever system the wormhole had connected to and was informed that “illegal contraband” could not be included in a courier contract.

Whatever. I just left the stuff in question in the station for CB to deal with on his own time and carried on.

The next time, however, I was flying a Mammoth-class industrial hauler through Minmatar space and got stopped on one of the gates. A Brutor Tribe hurricane pulled up alongside and tapped on the canopy.

“Sir, could I see your license and registration?”

“Sure. There a problem, officer?”

“Well, we got a call from some of your… cargo.”

“A… call?”

“Correct. It seems you have some Wrongfully Indentured Individuals aboard your ship.”

“Wrongfully indentured… oh. Shi– shoot. The slaves?”

“The Minmatar Republic does not recognize the practice of legal slavery, sir.”

“No. No, of course not –”

“So I’m sure you don’t have –”

“Do I need to turn over –”

“– remit your passengers to our Customs officials to begin the naturalization process –”

“Of course. Of course. Really sorry about –”

“– will of course be a small processing fee –”

“Of course.” I eyed the many, many Minmatar battleships slowly wheeling in the general direction of my ship. “No problem at all. Happy to pay. Really very sorry about the mix-up.”

“Understood, sir. Carry on.” The ship pulled away, but I couldn’t help but feel that the officials involved were not at all happy with me.

Turned out I was right. While the fine was a paltry amount, the hit my standings took with the Minmatar Government… that stung.

Then, a few hours, later, it happened again.

“Goddammit, CB, haul your own damn slaves out of the hole next time!”

“Sorry. Can’t hear you. Laughing too hard.”

Right, so there I was in the Placid region, killing time while I waited for the Red Frog freighters to get back to Sinq Laison, and running level 3 combat missions in Appiary, my little Ishkur assault frigate.

“Dude?”

“Sorry.” I shook my head. “What was the question again?”

“What are you looking for in a … wormhole. Or wormhole corp. Whatever.”

“Well…” I thought it over. “Not a big alliance, spread out over umpteen systems. Sucks not knowing everyone.”

“Better for defense, too.”

“Eh.” I shrugged. “Far as I’m concerned, defense is only a major problem if you’re in the habit of running around kicking other people’s shins — we had alliance-sized problems in our hole because our alliance picked fights and we ended up being the randomly-selected kid who got punched back.”

“Fair enough,” Em said, though I’m not sure he agreed.

“A lot of the guys I’ve followed seem to be mostly active in just a couple systems,” I continued. “AHARM, the Lost in Eve guys, or The Night Crew, or Lone Star Exploration — they all pretty much just live in one system.”

“I don’t know any of those names except AHARM.”

“The rest aren’t big in wormhole politics bullshit,” I explained. “Which reminds me: No wormhole politics bullshit. I just want to live in a hole, shoot people, have them shoot at me, make isk, lose isk, and not give a single solitary fuck about who’s currently blue to who. Simple.”

“Sounds good, if it’s possible.”

“I think it is.”

“So you want to start an alliance with some other corp, or just drop your corp entirely and join somebody else?”

“Either-or, but probably the second option, so guys like Moondog can stay in the current corp and just shoot stuff out in known space — it’s what they enjoy, and I like giving them a home.”

“CB mentioned you guys talked about running Incursions?”

“Sure, but that’s basically just for the hell of it, to see what they’re about. Just to kill time until we figure out what we’re going to do.”

“Sounds good.”

The comms are silent for awhile, which I don’t notice, as I’m too busy laughing at the Angel battlecruisers trying and failing to hit my ship.

“So… what are we going to do?”

“That,” I reply, “is a pretty good question.”

Life in a Wormhole: Tipping Point #eveonline

The fact of the matter is, we’ve been talking about moving to a different wormhole for awhile now. Let me speak frankly about why:

  • The system itself isn’t really suited for us, anymore. It certainly was for a long time, and our roommates from Walrus and Cab’s corp are fantastic, but we feel like we’ve done this kind of system long enough, and we’d like to try something new.
  • Bedbugs. I’m not gonna lie to you, Marge: one of the reasons I haven’t been logging in as much for the last month or so was simply because I felt like my play options were limited. With a spy in the hole, even the most basic wormhole-related activity seems to require a fleet of ships to act as lookouts, backups, bodyguards, and so forth. I might be willing to risk ships, but if other’s aren’t I’m certainly not going to browbeat them into it. It starts a vicious circle where “not enough” people are logged in, so the people that do log in stop doing so, since there’s nothing to do, and soon no one’s logging in.
  • Maybe I'll head outside for a little -- NOPE.
    LoJack. Related to the above, I personally don’t feel like I can leave the system and go do anything else, either. I’ve given up on casual roams in Syndicate, and stopped going on the RvB Ganked booze cruises because I feel like every time I head into known space I’ve got a locator agent saying “okay, he’s out of the house, get on in there.” Hell I don’t even go to markets anymore — I just have someone else bring stuff back — it’s basically house arrest. I don’t mean to sound like I’m whining, so don’t read it that way — it’s just the way things are.
  • The Alliance. Although I don’t talk about it much, the fact is I don’t see eye to eye with many of the folks in similar leadership roles within our current alliance. There’s a strong movement in there toward a kind of structure that I and my pilots see (right or wrong) as strongly reminiscent of a null-sec alliance, and we don’t think that’s a model that works in wormhole space. (And even if it did, we’d want no part of that kind of setup; we’ve got too many scarred, ex-pat null-sec vets.) Given that, and the fact that I don’t feel like I can leave the system to participate in mandatory ops, it seems logical that the best thing for everyone is to get out of the Alliance, and that the best way to achieve proper separation is to also leave the system at the same time.

So that’s basically where we’re at, sans drama — it’s just the facts of the situation. This has been something lurking at the back of our minds for quite awhile now, hence our on-again, off-again efforts to shift our underused assets out to known space. When Gor emails me to let me know he’s moved all of his stuff entirely out of the wormhole and will be letting his account lapse for awhile, I decide it’s time to take some serious action before anyone else starts winning at EvE. Up to this point, I’ve put off the final push to take our tower down, because it will leave us vulnerable to attack, especially with a spy in the hole, but I’m now to the point where I don’t care; some loss is preferable to death by stagnation.

When Em tells me that some of our pilots spotted that same lurking bomber pilot in some other, completely unrelated wormhole only a few days after our bomber run was cut short, that just adds another bit of momentum.

“It probably just means they put a different spy in the system.”

“Maybe. Or it means they’re done with us. Either way, doesn’t change anything.”

In contrast to our last move out of a wormhole, CB is one hundred percent on board, and stiffens my resolve on a number of occasions when the to-do list starts to look a little too daunting. Within a few days we’re down to the bare minimum number of ships (most of which can be flown by either of us, equally well), and I’m offlining defensive modules and packing them away. The next few days are a blur of moving ships and taking down bits of the tower.

(Luckily, April 1st comes along during this effort, which is a day that always makes me incredibly productive, since I avoid the internet like the plague.)

Prior to this decision, we’d been suffering through a long patch of really terrible connections to known space, but it’s as if the system knows of our plans and approves — we get a string of fantastically convenient connections to high-sec space, one after the other and sometimes two at a time — a day’s worth of concentrated effort and some assistance from Em lets us move the few remaining ships to the Walrus tower for temporary storage and use, strip the tower, remove all fuel, and shut it down. By the end of the day, we have only a handful of necessary ships on hand, and everything else is out in known space and aboard Red Frog freighters, heading for our home office.

And what about Walrus? I’d let those guys know what we’d decided to do, and it turns out that very little discussion was required before they decided to make a similar move out of the wormhole. It sounds as though their follow-up plan is to move into another Alliance wormhole, but for now we’re not thinking that far ahead, except to acknowledge that we’d all be happier if we stayed together in some way, and then focus on the logistics of our collective exodus.

During all of this, we see no hint of the pilots who had once lurked in our system, though I find myself in more conversations with their CEO.

“You guys should really get out of that system and get into someplace better,” he comments, unknowingly ironic. “Come join us!”

“I can’t really move haulers out with your bombers floating around,” I reply, trying not to think of our pilots’ probable response to that invitation. “I’m stuck in the system, and as long as I’m stuck in the system, I’m stuck in the alliance. Your fault, by the way.”

“If you were leaving that alliance,” he quips, “I’d send over haulers to help you move.”

I don’t take him up on the offer, but regardless, we get all of our stuff moved without any complications.

Em was fairly surprised at how fast we got our tower down and, thus inspired, goes to work on the Walrus tower the next day, making use of the continuing string of amazingly good high-sec connections we’ve been blessed with. Two days after our tower came down, the Walrus tower shuts off the lights, with the last of our ships floating inside the force field of the system’s remaining tower — Cabbage’s corporate fortress, which we’ve all decided will remain until we find a buyer for the wormhole system and (hopefully) the Rorqual, which is too big to remove from the wormhole as anything but self-destructed scrap.

The other two CEOs give the high sign, and I contact our broker, asking them to list the wormhole system for sale: Class Two, good connections, good planets, well-loved, comes with Rorqual (only driven on Sundays, mostly to compress ore).

The end?

Hardly. More like the end of the beginning.

We are happy... and tired.

Life in a Wormhole: Bedbugs #eveonline

It’s been quiet in the system for a few weeks with logins dragging downward more than a little, but pilots are on and we’re excited to have a fun roam out into null-sec space in some stealth bombers to see if there’s anyone we can kill, or at least annoy.

Our exit to high-sec (via the class two system we’re currently connected to) puts us in territory with which Pax is quite familiar, so we’re happy to let him scout our way as we go, and manage to get ourselves quite far out into the deep water when we notice that one of the pilots on our watchlist just logged on.

This wouldn’t normally be a problem or even noteworthy, except that it’s the only pilot from the enemy “Occupy Wormhole” corp that we haven’t been able to verify is out of our wormhole. We have a real opportunity here to find out if he’s still around, or no longer a threat. I contact one of my agents who can run locator services on anyone in known space (not including wormholes), and Shan logs in an alt to see if there’s anything going on back in our home system.

Which, of course, there is.

“Looks like we have five scanner probes out in the system,” Shan reports. “Converging on our low-sec exit.”

“Well,” says Em, “we need to get back there. Op’s cancelled. Let’s get moving.”

Our efforts are starting to feel a little futile.

While we turn ’round and head back, Bre (who stayed home) hops into a Crow interceptor and gets ready to drop on the low-sec exit if Shan reports any ships going out. It’s good that she does, since it’s only a few minutes before the pilot we’d been watching for (flying a stealth bomber) decloaks and jumps out into known space. Our situation has now gone from “get back to the hole to deal with the guy” to “get back to the hole before all of his friends show up.”

Bre jumps out of the hole as well, and is almost able to lock the bomber before he cloaks up. She settles for orbiting the wormhole at various distances to hope for a lucky decloaking, but no joy on that front.

“We have a problem,” Em reports.

“Another one?”

“Yeah, the entrance we used to get out is gone.”

“So we go in through the low-sec entrance. How far away is it?”

“… 35 jumps.”

Super. Our pilots scramble from gate to gate through known space while Bre and Shan monitor the situation at home. On the way, we posit theories about what happened in this case, and the commonly accepted one is that the other batch of pilots saw that a bunch of us were on, ran a locator agent to see where we were, saw we were all out in null-sec, and decided to slip back into our system while we were away.

Basically, this means we can’t do anything outside the system without exposing ourselves to more of the same cloak-ship nonsense, and we can’t really do anything inside the system either for the same reason. It’s a bit like being held hostage in your own house by a small buzzing fly… because that fly will randomly open your front door and let in yellowjackets if you aren’t paying attention.

“Well, to be fair, that’s always been true — anyone could do that to us.”

“Yes, but there’s a difference between ‘this could theoretically happen, maybe, if you’re unlucky’ and ‘this is definitely going to happen, every time.'”

“True.”

For a wonder, we actually manage to get back to the low-sec entrance before any enemy pilots show up, and switch to ships better suited for killing the wormhole just as Bre reports that the bomber pilot jumped back inside, cloaked up, and got away.

“So even if we kill the hole, he’s still in here.”

“Yup.”

We close the hole anyway, since we don’t need any of the bomber’s friends in the system to complicate matters, and most of us call it an evening at this point. I stay on and contemplate the nature of bedbugs. Nasty things; they get into the crooks and crevices of your life and negatively impact everything else you’ve got going on. Get them in your house, and your options are pretty much “fumigate”, “burn everything”, or “move out.”

And there’s really no way to fumigate in EvE.

Life in a Wormhole: Surreality #eveonline

I find myself in another chat with the leader of the alliance that houses the cloaky pilots who’ve camped our systems a couple times.

About what? Well… nothing, it seems he just wants to chat.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most important elements for enjoying any MMO is having people to play with; this requirement is (in my opinion) an absolutely unavoidable requirement for long-term MMO enjoyment because, compared to other types of games, MMOs are not… good; they don’t hold up in terms of repeated, engaging play the way something like Mass Effect 2 does — the missing ingredient that keeps a player coming back to the same MMO for years is, in short, the other people — if you don’t have that, or can’t find that, you’ll eventually leave.

EvE is no exception.

What’s different about EvE is that one of the ways players choose to play with others is by blowing them up, which (again, my opinion) makes EvE a lot more like ‘normal’ games (Chess, Monopoly, Clue, Cribbage, et cetera) than a typical MMO, because a lot of the fun you’re having comes from pitting yourselves directly against other people. Someone playing EvE can enjoy many hours of engaging “solo” play by roaming around through null-sec space, finding people to shoot and then working their way into a fight they have a small chance of winning. They’ll have a great time, but the reason they’re having a great time is because they aren’t playing solo, not really; without those other players around — the ones that ‘solo’ player is shooting at — he’s going to have a bad time, and it won’t take too many nights like that before he starts looking for something else to do or stops logging in entirely.

In fact, if you can find other people to pit yourself against, that’s really all you need; there’s no ‘raid gear’ requirement or level-cap in EvE, so aside from being vastly outnumbered or outgunned, if you can find an opponent, the rest boils down to — in the words of Fezzik — “skill against skill alone.”

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read or heard about someone in EvE who found a group of people to play with… by first shooting or being shot at by them.

It seems like that’s what’s happened here, in that this corp CEO seems equal parts amused and intrigued by our little band of misfits who, for all our relative noobishness, gave his squad of space ninjas a pretty good challenge… largely without actually shooting at them.

I understand the chats, is what I’m saying.

Doesn’t make it feel any less weird, though.


Let’s play some more catch-up.

Recruitifying

Having moved Ko into the system, we’re now interviewing his RL buddy, who seems pretty cool and quite interested in wormhole life. Call this a second win for ‘recruit from the blog comments’.

Slab of Tritanium + Afterburners

Tweed and Em spotted a battlecruiser killing sleepers in our system, but before we could jump him, he was caught and blown up by a couple roaming pilots from Narwhals Ate My Duck, one of the bigger/more notorious fish in the wormhole  pond. One of the ships, a Proteus strategic cruiser, leaves the wreck of the battlecruiser and warps to the random outbound connection we currently have to highsec, then jumps through.

We hatch a plan that involves waiting on our side of the wormhole, hoping he jumps through early, gets trapped against the wormhole by our ships and the polarization effect, and then dies in a fiery explosion. That’s almost exactly what happens.

Almost.

He jumps back, we jump him and proceed to shoot him and he… is not blowing up.

He continues to not blow up.

This goes on for a bit.

Eventually, his polarization effect ends and he jumps back out into high-sec. We are nonplussed.

Turns out that this particular pilot likes to fly cloaky Proteus fits that, if my math is right, would boast something like three hundred thousand effective hit points. Amazing (if expensive) fit, really: the best ship to uncloak first for a surprise attack, as you can tank any counterattack amazingly well. It doesn’t do any damage to speak of, but it doesn’t really *need* to — if it’s mugging a hauler, that hauler will die, and if it’s attacking a tougher ship, this is just the guy to hold him while your buddies hit him.

I take some notes on the fit, because maybe I’ve found something useful to do with my own Proteus. Maybe I can rename Derpy Hooves something like Big Macintosh.

Where did the rest of March go?

Oh yeah: Mass Effect 3 came out. There’s a week or two here where I’m pretty scarce, but this comes to a happy conclusion when our pilots decide to have some fun with a bomber roam through null-sec. Just the thing to get us back in the groove.

… until we’re interrupted. Again.

Life in a Wormhole: Catch up #eveonline

Okay, since there’s not much going on at the moment but Planetary Interaction, I feel like I can compress the action a bit: lets get back to that thing where I try to get us a little closer to the current day, because right now? We’re still about two months behind.

It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas

I do not enjoy the Rolling Stones. Never have. Just putting that out there.

The guys are harvesting fullerene gas from the many Ladar signatures next door in a class two wormhole system that has lain dormant and abandoned for (I’m going to guess) a really long time, since its two persistent wormhole connections lead to deadly Class 6 wormhole space… and null-sec. Yeah. That’s not a system that’s going to see a lot of traffic — I can’t imagine anyone who would ever find that whole enticing as a home, no matter who they are — you’ll never or rarely be anywhere useful via your nullsec connection, and you can’t bring big ships through your c6 connection, so you can’t really do anything that way, either. Maybe if the system has good native resources? Nope; terrible planets — basically we’re already pulling everything of value out of the system in the form of the randomly-occurring fullerene clouds.

I’m a bit distracted from this, however, thanks to a chat request from none other than the CEO of the corp of pilots who have been camped in our system twice. He wants to know why my blog is time-shifted by so many weeks, because he’s eager to read about their shenanigans from my point of view. This is the danger with EvE blogging: sometimes, people decide to fuck with you simply because they’ll get to read about it later.

At any rate, I’m not super-receptive to the “hurry up and get to the good stuff” request, though the conversation easily qualifies as the most surreal in my time playing EvE.

Cool Wormhole Stuff Doesn’t Always Happen in the Wormhole Itself

Our connections out of the wormhole are boring and useless, so I decide to drop out into known space and scan the remote low-sec system to which we find ourselves connected. The results are two more wormholes to explore, a number of radar and magnometric signatures, and a huge pile of reasonably profitable Blood Raider combat sites I can mop up in my Ishtar. It’s not our normal fare, but it suits me just fine since I can be super lazy about security and simply watch the Local comms channel to see if I get any visitors (I don’t, for the next several hours).

By the time we (Gor and CB joined me) are done with shooting Blood Raiders, we have a new connection to wormhole space at home; one that leads to a convenient hi-sec exit Gor uses to fly unused ships out. I take off fairly early for the night, but smile at an email from CB:

Tweed and me killed a retriever in the c2. Chatted with the guy for about an hour after, giving him tips about not getting podded. Are we recruiting?

That’s a good question…

Happy Birthday to Meee

I splurge and by myself a Loki strategic cruiser, fitting it for a similar role as my Proteus simply because the Proteus is driving me CRAZY with how slowly the heavily armored ship crawls around when it’s cloaked. (I’ve renamed it from Twilight Sparkle to Derpy Hooves.)

All ready for action, Applejack heads out into the wilds of wormhole space. Yee-haw.

Meanwhile, I send emails to a few unaffiliated blog commenters to see if they’re interested in wormhole space.

Schadenfreude

Some guy I don’t like very much who lectures people about tactics and combat awareness loses over 4 billion isk worth of ships, simply by running Sleeper sites in a pimped out strategic cruisers and not keeping any kind of lookout posted. Lost a couple pods, too.

I won’t lie to you, Marge; I laughed.

Then I bookmarked the killboard and tucked it away next to pictures of cute animals and viral videos for those days when I need a good cheering up.

Please forward your CV

After discussing it with CB and Gor, we decided to allow a (very) few corp applicants from people who’ve been actively asking smart questions on the blog, who don’t seem to be attached to wormhole corps already. The first couple I contact are unfortunately in far distant timezones and thus a bad fit (for them and us), but the third one looks better, and Gor and I spend the evening chatting with the pilot in question, both asking and answering questions.

I’m a Big Sisi

The next couple days have family in town, so I’m not on much, and when I am, I’m logged into “SiSi”, the Singularity test server, checking out builds for Scimitar and Oneiros logistics ships under pseudo-combat situations. I remain very impressed with how much even one logistics ship can change an engagement for a small group of ships.

Back on the Live server, we have a good High-sec exit, so we help Ko move his stuff into the wormhole. Then I slip out and buy CB a Cynabal for his birthday. Everyone should have a cool ship they didn’t pay for.

Hello. It’s Been Awhile.

Family are still in town, but I sneak a bit of time online to chat with Ko and set up a bit more P.I. stuff, then do some exploring. Looks like we’re connected to the same system we were in 25 days ago, and not much has changed. Still a class two, still c5/null-sec statics, still (or rather, again) full of Sleeper anomalies. Me, Em, Shan, Ko, CB, Tweed, and Dirk (a new addition to Em’s corp) warm up the guns and get to work, making some fun but odd ship choices that leave us looking more like a PvP gang than a sleeper fleet. CB’s ship actually is a PvP ship – a blaster-fit Talos – which he flies against sleepers whenever he’s bored and looking for the fun of flying fast and dying young… which is pretty much what happens when he gets primaried by a couple sleeper battleships before he can warp out. Oops.

The loot is poor overall, but at least there’s a LOT of it — 30 anomalies die for well over 600 million isk in loot (less one Talos).

Afterwards, I respond to CB’s obvious enjoyment of the zoomy Talos by helping him fit up a properly-tanked hurricane that should give roughly the same experience. It’s not cap-stable, but I explain how he can drain energy off Drake battlecruisers in between waves of sleepers, and this pleases him.

 

Life in a Wormhole: What’s your favorite flavor of PI? #eveonline

It seems like everyone in the EvE blogoverse is talking about Planetary Interaction right now, and since I’m wrestling with setting up something like forty PI colonies right now, I figured I’d share the tiny little bit of information I’ve learned on the process.

Planetary What-now?

Planetary Interaction is a very terrible, Civ-like mini-game in EvE that lets you exploit the resources of all those balls of dirt floating out there in your nice clean Void. The basic idea is:

  • Pretty much everything in the game is made by some other player.
  • All those things are created from other, smaller things.
  • Players have to make all those smaller things too.

A lot of the stuff you make in the game is created via EvE’s own particular brand of crafting (a subject I’ve already written about),  but a fairly sizeable chunk of stuff gets created via factories that players set up planetside all around New Eden and Anoikis to extract raw materials and turn them into useful things like Mechanical Parts, Enriched Uranium, Polytextiles, and Livestock.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll fiddle with this once, retrieve your crappy low-end product one time, sell it for pennies, wonder why you bothered, and never go back and mess with your colony ever again.

If you do know what you’re doing, a single character with about twelve days worth of skill training can produce over 20 million isk worth of materials per day, via a passive income source that (once you get it all set up) takes about five minutes of tweaking every few days.

Now, as it happens, the quality of a planet in terms of the amount of raw materials it produces is determined by the security level of the space it’s in. Wormhole space is the lowest of null-security space, therefore, planetary interaction colonies in wormhole space can be quite profitable, if you happen to have set up shop in a system with a good selection of planets. Even if you haven’t, it’s possible to use PI to create most of the materials you need to make fuel blocks for your tower, and maybe even sell off the excess.

Let me give you an example, using a common PI product: Coolant.

(Non-EvE players: I won’t be hurt at all if you stopped reading here.)

Coolant is (relatively) easy to set up, and it’s pretty easy to find planets on which you can make it, since it can be produced on virtually any gas planet, which are very common in EvE.

As an added bonus, Coolant is quite profitable if all you want to do is make it and sell it. The obvious reason (and the one everyone thinks of) is because it is one of the ingredients in the fuel blocks used by every kind of player-owned tower in the game.

However, it’s worth noting that Coolant also (eventually) finds its way into a few other products in the game, such as the Infrastructure Hub, Territorial Claim Unit, Sovereignty Blockade Unit, Biochemical Silo, Catalyst Silo, Coupling Array, General Storage, Hazardous Chemical Silo, Hybrid Polymer Silo, Advanced Large Ship Assembly Array, Capital Ship Maintenance Array, Advanced Medium Ship Assembly Array, Ship Maintenance Array, Advanced Small Ship Assembly Array, Capital Ship Assembly Array, Explosion Dampening Array, Component Assembly Array, Heat Dissipation Array, Photon Scattering Array, Drug Lab, Equipment Assembly Array, Intensive Refining Array, Large Ship Assembly Array, Medium Intensive Refining Array, Medium Ship Assembly Array, Refining Array, Rapid Equipment Assembly Array, Small Ship Assembly Array, Subsystem Assembly Array, X-Large Ship Assembly Array, Amarr Control Tower, Amarr Control Tower Medium, Amarr Control Tower Small, Caldari Control Tower, Caldari Control Tower Medium, Caldari Control Tower Small, Gallente Control Tower, Gallente Control Tower Medium, Gallente Control Tower Small, Minmatar Control Tower, Minmatar Control Tower Medium, Minmatar Control Tower Small, Corporate Hangar Array, Cynosural Generator Array, Cynosural System Jammer, Biochemical Reactor Array, Complex Reactor Array, Energy Neutralizing Battery, Jump Bridge, Large Blaster Battery, Large Railgun Battery, Large Artillery Battery, Large AutoCannon Battery, Experimental Laboratory, Mobile Laboratory…

*deep breath*

… Citadel Torpedo Battery, Large Pulse Laser Battery, Large Beam Laser Battery, Customs Office Gantry, Station Construction Parts, Station Hangar Array, Station Storage Bay, Station Laboratory, Station Factory, Station Repair Facility, Station Reprocessing Plant, Station Docking Bay, Station Market Network, Station Medical Center, Station Office Center, Station Mission Network, Advanced Mobile Laboratory, Capital Neutron Saturation Injector I, Capital Murky Shield Screen Transmitter I, ‘Limos’ Citadel Cruise Launcher I, Shock ‘Limos’ Citadel Torpedo Bay I, Quad 3500mm Gallium Cannon, 6x2500mm Heavy Gallium Repeating Cannon, Warp Disruption Battery, Warp Scrambling Battery, Stasis Webification Battery, Sensor Dampening Battery, Ion Field Projection Battery, Phase Inversion Battery, Spatial Destabilization Battery, and White Noise Generation Battery.

So, you know. Coolant.

It gets used in stuff.

It’s not one of the “20 million isk/day” products, but it’s pretty decent, and not too horrifying to set up.

So this is your basic Coolant PI set up on a Gas Planet, assuming you have the Command Center Upgrades skill trained to 4 (which you should absolutely do).

… and here’s how I put it together.

  1. Scan the planet for the two types of materials you need (Aqueous liquids and Ionic Solutions). Find a place equidistant between the two sources (they won’t be close together) where no one else is set up (right-click on the planet and ‘show other installations’), and plant your Command Center (CC) near there. Save Changes.
  2. Set up your spaceport (SP) pretty much smack-dab in the middle of where you want everything to happen.
    • Realize you forgot to upgrade your command center, so you can’t build a space port. Go back and upgrade your command center as far as it will go, THEN build the space port. Save Changes.
  3. There’s room immediately around your spaceport to arrange in six structures, so plant 4 basic processors (BP) and 2 advanced processors (AP).  Save Changes. I usually go BP, BP, AP, BP, BP, AP. Note: this picture is neither to scale nor arranged as I’ve just described, because I need more space for the ARTISTIC ARROWS.
  4. In two of your Basic Processors, load the program to turn Aqueous Liquids into Water. In the other two, load the program to turn Ionic Solutions into ElectrolytesSave Changes.
  5. In both of the Advanced Processors, load the program that will take Water and Electrolytes and make CoolantSave Changes.
  6. Set up two Extractors (Ext), each right up against that ring of processors. One extractor will be set to harvest  Aqueous liquids and the other, Ionic SolutionsSave Changes.
  7. Create links between all the structures and the Starport (SP). Save Changes.
  8. Start putting down extractor heads for the extractors.
    • Your “perfect” goal with a gas-planet coolant farm is to pull about 12000 units of stuff into the extractor, total, per hour, for a roughly one- to two-day cycle.
    • Your second (equally important) goal is to pull the same amount of stuff IN TOTAL as the other type of extractor, so you don’t end up with a lot of extra Ionic Solution or whatever.
    • Accept that you will end up with too much Ionic Solution anyway.
    • With CC Upgrades at 4, you can drop 7 extractor heads, I think. Probably you’ll need the odd one for Aqueous Liquids.
  9. Once you have your heads set, Run Program. You’ll have to set one of the extractors up, run the program, then work to get the other one to match the first’s numbers. Save Changes.
  10. Once the program is running, click on Products (not Routes) for each extractor and route the product back to the Starport. Save Changes.
  11. Back at the Starport, create Routes (not Products) for the incoming extracted stuff. Two routes for  Aqueous liquids: one to each Water BPs; two routes for Ionic Solutions to the two Electrolytes BPs. Save Changes.
  12. At the BPs, click on Products (not Routes) for each processor and route the product (Water or Electrolytes) back to the Starport.  Save Changes.
  13. Back at the Starport, create Routes (not Products) for the incoming  Water or Electrolytes and route them to each of the two Advanced Processors (AP).  Save Changes.
  14. At the APs, click on Products (not Routes) for each advanced processor and route the final product (Coolant) back to the Starport.  Save Changes.
  15. Exit. Remind yourself that once everything is set up, all you have to do to keep it running is massage the Extractor heads to keep your numbers even, and that you’re one-fifth closer to being done with PI for this character.

When your starport starts to look full of nothing but coolant or the m3 of coolant is getting close to your single-trip hauling capacity, send it up to the POCO, fly out, and pick it up.

The only difference between this and doing some other tier-2 product like, say, Mechanical parts on a Barren world, is that with mechanical parts, you aim to pull 18000 units of basic junk out of the ground each hour, and you use more processors (6 BPs and 3 APs). You can do this because most planets are smaller than Gas planets and require less infrastructure to run, so you can build more Processors on smaller worlds. It’s otherwise the same.

And that’s PI, which I’m spending an inordinate amount of time doing right now, so I can fuel the tower and (hopefully)  even enjoy some profit in the future.

Life in a Wormhole: Back on the Horse #eveonline

I’m going to go backwards a bit to tell a quick story that happened during the “2nd Siege” of our home system by the enemy cruisers. Why the air quotes? Well, it wasn’t really a siege, was it? I mean, they left.

Best way to siege a system, really: make them think you’re out there when you aren’t. Sun Tzu would be proud.

Worst thing about the whole weekend? Having a bunch of people shitting up our local intel channel with kugu links. Anyway.

So as mentioned, Berke lost his orca during the initial fracas. As per usual, the mighty ship went out in a blaze in the midst of hole-closing shenanigans, which is how such things tend to happen. The next day, he jumped out to known space in his pod to check the markets for a new ship because (a) they’re pretty useful and (b) Orcas are pretty much what Berke flies, so not having one is just silly.

So is gnashing your teeth and mourning the bloody thing, by the way. We’re certainly not casually throwing away ships out here, but the fact of the matter is, if you undock in anything, there’s a chance you’re going to lose it, and that chance increases exponentially if there are enemy ships anywhere. If I go into a fight, I have to expect I’ll lose that ship, and the Orca — despite not having any guns on — is the same. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s also useful enough to make it a necessary risk a lot of the time. If you’re going to be like this:

… then you need to harden the fuck up, Miles.

Anyway.

Berke had pretty much settled on a good contract deal a few jumps away when we get a pleasant surprise in the form of the Alliance replacing the Orca, complete with fittings identical to the recently lost ship – some kind of new ship-replacement-for-system-defense thing about which we will ask few questions and simply say “thanks.”

The only downside to this gift horse is that the ship is in Jita, which is (a) several dozen jumps away and (b) Jita. Yes, it’s the “main” market in the game, but it’s also a cesspool of lag and malice — it’s like flying into 4chan.

Still… free Orca. Le sigh.

The downside got considerably worse when Berke got his pod blown up one system away from his destination, resetting him to his naked clone (still back in the training system he started in) and requiring some new skill implant shopping. Thanks, random gate-camping dude in a destroyer.

Man I hate Jita.

Orca retrieved, Berke flies it back and slips it in through low-sec to return to the home system.

That’s not the amusing part.

That comes the next day, when all the Alliance guys are in the system, their fleet commanders have logged out, and we decide we want to close up the connection we have open to the class two system next door. The problem is, no one wants to put their battleships through the hole that much, because there’s been some traffic through the wormhole, it’s remaining strength is unknown, and they don’t want to get stranded.

So Berke gets his Orca.

And Berke crashes the hole, explaining as he does so that if he gets stranded, he’s got the tools he needs to get out, even from the BIG SCARY LOW-SEC EXIT in the neighboring system.

And of course the hole crashes with him on the wrong side.

Guys. You should have heard the dead silence on the comms. Seriously, you’d have thought the Orca had already exploded. It actually made me laugh, because Berke was like:

In the silence, Berke drops probes, cloaks up, and scans down the exit to lowsec, in a system which is directly adjacent to a CONCORD-controlled high-sec ‘island’, with six more lowsec jumps out to contiguous high-sec.

“Find a station, man, and once this thing is done, we’ll send a fleet to come pick you up.”

“Yeah, we will; no problem.”

Yeah…

Berke docs up in CORCORD’s station, pulls a fast frigate out of his own Orca’s ship hangar, and scouts the six-jump route out to high-sec. Quiet as a tomb. Right. Back to the station, back in the Orca, 10-second warps to each gate, and ten minutes later he’s back in high-sec. Twelve more jumps back home, another couple jumps through low-sec (with Ty checking the gates to see that they’re clear of camps), and back in the tower by bedtime.

The next day:

“Okay, we’ve got six guys who’ve volunteered to escort that Orca out to somewhere safe. What was that system again?”

I’m not saying you should fly reckless, or stupid.

But don’t fly scared. Don’t fly timid. It’s a fucking game.

Life in a Wormhole: Bad Time to Stop Sniffing Glue #eveonline

It’s a new day, and it’s clear that we’ve been penciled in for another round of “spot the invisible ship” with our old friends.

Super.

Everyone’s laying low right now, but unlike the last time when we were playing it cool in the hopes of misleading the enemy about our intentions or level of activity, this stretch of silence has nothing to do with tactics or, in fact, EvE. We’re just really busy.

The last tussle was a huge time investment, and pretty much every pilot we had was active and online. This time?

  • I’ve got about five deadlines to worry about, I’m Solo Dad for the whole week, and my kid has a terrifying-sounding but ultimately treatable case of the croup.
  • CB, Shan, and Gor are working really long hours.
  • Em is actually physically out of town, only able to log in via some sort of wifi-enabled GoToMyPC-funded seance.

The list goes on, and includes (I’m sure) a couple guys who just flat-out don’t want to go through the same marathon hole-crashing session again. It’s kind of tough. We mostly stay offline and shoot a lot of emails back and forth, trying to figure out what our best options are.

No one has any great ideas, aside from the obvious.

Basically, even if we wanted to fight, we don’t have enough people available to make it more than a blood sacrifice.

Our alliance has offered assistance, and we have a few discussions with the more vocal members about various possible options, all of which boil down to two main choices, each with their supporters and detractors. The pace of this discussion picks up a bit when I log in a day after the first fight and see that our visitors have shot up one of our Player-Owned Custom’s Offices (POCO), which has locked down in ‘reinforced mode’ and will come out of that mode in a day and a half, ready to be either defended or destroyed.

An artist's rendering of the presumed POCO-bashing events. Screenie by Pell Helix, embedded photographer.

Option 1: Sneak a bunch of pilots into the system in stealthy ships, while the enemy pilots are logged out. Set up some kind of believable but attack-worthy target for the enemy to bite on, then ambush their ambush. This is seen as too nuanced and ‘weak’ by some, and as the only really viable option by others. I’m in the second group, since I believe I understand the enemy pilots well enough to know they aren’t going to take any fight that looks bad, so a bait/ambush thing seems like the only way to actually get a fight that MIGHT result in expunging the pilots from the system.

Option 2: Fly in a fleet of battleships with heavy logistics support, form up on the damaged POCO and get ready for a big fight when the reinforcement timer ends. This is seen as the ‘strong’, ‘decisive’, show-of-force or ‘swinging dick’ option by some. Me? Well, if I were commanding a small fleet of billion-isk cloaky cruisers designed to mulch unsuspecting haulers and miners — I’m not going to be baited into a fight with a bunch of battleships. Obviously.

As plans go, I feel like I've heard better.

Still, I’m not going to look a gift fleet in the mouth because frankly without any help at all, our big move for the coming weekend is going to be “nothing”. When the group consensus settles on option two, I make room in our tower and open up a ship’s hangar to alliance pilots, so everyone has somewhere to bunk down.

I want to be clear: I may not think much of the plan, but the pilots who voluntarily leave their home systems, strap into ships, and fly over to join in on an operation versus an unknown force, all for guys they barely know? My opinion of them could not be higher.

In any case, it hardly matters. While I can’t be on all the time, I can be on at the right times, and between my watchlist (which still has all the enemy pilots on it from a few weeks ago) and some meta-intel, I’m able to confirm within 24 hours that six of the seven pilots involved in the fight two days ago are no longer in our system, and are in fact busy blowing up guys in some other wormhole. That last pilot is worrisome, as he’s the one guy who wasn’t in an expensive cruiser, but a relatively cheap stealth bomber, and as such he makes a great ‘alt’ to leave hidden in the wormhole for yet another fight down the road.

But that’s a concern for another day. The main enemy force is gone — probably left before the response fleet even showed up, actually — we repair the POCO, everyone flies back home with our thanks, and I start vacuuming up the potato chips and putting the couches back in their normal locations.

Life in a Wormhole: The Simplest Answer #eveonline

So there are a couple reasons why I posted the story of our last fight from the point of view of the guys on the other side of the gun barrels.

  1. I was really busy on Wednesday, and this let me post a fight without all the tedious… work.
  2. It’s important to remember that there are always at least two ways to look at a situation, often more than two, and that your perspective might not be the best one.

Mostly it’s that second part. Let’s see what we can learn from looking at things from that point of view:

  • That’s a group of guys who are obviously very familiar working with each other.
  • They know their jobs and responsibilities.
  • They make mistakes, they aren’t perfect, they don’t always or automatically get what they wanted out of a fight.
  • They get excited and shout and miss things.
  • Say what you will about camping systems in cloaked ships, or pulling “loginskis”, they’re really pretty damned good at what they do.
  • They were waiting for us, specifically.

Now, all those points are true, but I’m going to focus on that last one, because it’s relevant, here; if you read that last post, especially the part that led up to the fight, you should understand that our read on the situation was that we had discovered the presence of the enemy pilots, and that based on what we’d decided the situation was, the best thing to do would be to quickly close the connecting wormhole before we found ourselves right back where we had been.

Now, the whole time we were getting ready to do that, we were on voice comms, audibly shaking out heads and saying – over and over – “What are the fucking odds, man. What are the fucking ODDS?”

Yeah. What are the odds?

A small group of pilots with a really good track record of stealthily terrorizing wormhole systems with a pack of cloaked-up cruisers got into our system and started warming up for a pretty good weekend. We got them thinking that we were pretty non-active by staying quiet and cloaked up, then sprang into hole-crashing action as soon as they acted on that assumption and had a few guys leave the system. As a result, instead of explosions and mayhem, they found themselves in a scanning war, with the ousted pilots racing around New Eden trying to get back in, and eventually losing their inside man. We lost a couple ships, yes, but it would be fair to say that when the rubber hit the road, we ‘won’ that round.

Then, a few weeks later, we “open” our connection to class two wormhole space and see those same guys, but just a couple of them, blowing up ships next door.

There are 2500 wormhole systems. Of those, we will randomly connect to, at a minimum, one of the 499 other class two systems every day. Assuming that other class two system connects to high security space (it did), that’s 1090 different systems to which that other system might be connected.

So what are the odds that a small group of wormhole natives happen to be out in highsec known space for some reason, happen to be scanning, happen to find an entrance to class two wormhole space (500 of 2500 possible wormhole systems) which in turn just happens to be connected to our system via our outbound connection… and that all that happens on the same day?

I’d say those odds are pretty low.

What are the odds those guys wanted a rematch, waited a few days, then set about locating our system or following one of our pilots back home… or simply always still had one more ‘alt’ pilot in the system, ready to open the back door once we let our guard down a bit?

I’d say those odds are quite a bit higher; that we’ve moved from the realm of “vanishingly small” to “obviously, moron”.

We were in a rush. We were looking at things from only our limited point of view with only about a half hour’s worth of gathered intel. (We didn’t know that those enemy pilots had come into the class two from our system; the pilots that knew that were in our alliance, but opted to log out rather than communicate. Oops.)

Also, probably, we just didn’t WANT the more obvious answer to be true. No one wants the policeman to say “The call is coming from inside your house.”

It wasn’t until we had time to go over the fight, access our losses (not terrible, despite the loss of the orca — it could have been a hell of a lot worse), and evaluate our performance and ship selection (the Onyx was worse than useless – it was actually harmful; Em’s cloaky proteus turned out to be completely inappropriate for the fight that developed, and we were woefully short on proper sit-and-fight combat ships that would have evened the fight up a bit) that Em said:

“You know… they could have been in here, and just shooting the guys in the other system until we logged in.”

“That… yeah. Damn. That’d make more sense.”

“Yep.”

“It’s not very good news, though.”

“Nope.”


Are we making assumptions?

That’s the question to ask, when something like this happens. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time, maybe you need to move quickly.

But make sure, as you rush off, that you aren’t driving your 425 million isk bus right off a cliff. The simpler explanation is often the right one.

Lesson learned.

Life in a Wormhole: Return of the Tengu #eveonline

I’m on my way home for the day when I get a message from Em that our pilots have scanned down our connection to the neighboring class two wormhole system, and run into not one but two damned unlikely coincidences.

The first: the wormhole is occupied by one of the corporations in our own alliance, though no one we’ve interacted with before (one of the problems with an alliance this size and so spread out is that the vast majority of its members are folks we’ve never met or spoken to).

The second: they’ve apparently just had a couple of their ships blown up by the same pilots who had lurked in our own system a few weeks previous.

“Can we help them?”

“We’ve tried coordinating with them, but they’re not answering any of Tweed’s messages, and then they logged out.”

“Wow. That’s super useful. How many of those t3 pilots are there?”

“Looks like just two. The guys in the other hole were running a mining op. Tweed didn’t know who they were, so he scanned them down and snuck up on the asteroid belt, saw that they were blue to us, tried to talk to them through Alliance comms when he couldn’t raise any of them directly, and then two of our old buddies decloaked and blew them up.”

“So… bad guys around, and good guys logged off? We should –”

“We should close this connection asap, before they scan and figure out it’s here.”

“Yeah. On my way. Let’s get this done fast.”


“What have we got?”

“Shan’s in a hole-crashing Typhoon. I’ve got my Orca. Can Berke bring his too?”

“Of course,” I say. Berke is many thing’s but he’s never been squeamish about risking his big ship when it’s important — both of the Orca’s he’s lost have been while performing hole-closing maneuvers in dangerous situations, and even so his record of successful hole crashes while under fire has far more checks in the plus column. “I’ll bring the Cynabal for cover fire — might be the only thing I have besides the claw that can keep up with those over-propped lokis they fly.”

“I’ve got my Onyx,” adds Ichi, “and Kat’s in the Falcon.”

I nod, frowning a little. The ecm-fit Falcon force recon cruiser is a good choice for these kinds of ops — although fragile, I can sit over 70 klicks from the wormhole and jam the targeting on enemy ships, allowing the lumbering hulks to escape. The onyx makes less sense, since its main claim to fame is the ability to generate a large warp disruption bubble around itself, which many cloak-fit strategic cruisers are immune to. Still, it’s not my ship, and I’m honestly not sure what else he could fly that would be any better — he’s more often in a mining ship or a sleeper-shooting drake than a PvP ship.

“Okay,” says Em, “let’s do this.”

Berke lands on the wormhole next to Shan’s Typhoon while I circle the wormhole in the Cynabal cruiser, and the two waste no time jumping through to join Em on the far side of the wormhole, where’s she’s been waiting for several minutes.

“Ready to jump back?” Em asks.

“Sure.”

All three of the big ships slip through the wormhole and reappear in the home system.

That’s when all hell breaks loose.


[The following transmission was taken from the combat logs of the attacking pilots. Additional notes were added by one of the participating pilots, who sent the logs over in the first place. EvE is weird, sometimes.]

“You’re decloaked,” Brehm said, as we sat on the static C2, watching the Typhoon and Cynabal. There was a cloaked Onyx hiding nearby, and we knew the Orcas were about to decloak as well, but we’re waiting until their guard is down, right after the hole collapses.

“No I’m not,” I began to say, searching my overview for anything within range to decloak me. I looked down at my Cloak to see the green pulse of activation was absent.

Well, shit.

“Here we go!” I yelled on Comms. “Cynabal is primary, log in guys here we go; log in and warp to me!” I called, adrenaline beginning to pump.

The pilots already cloaked on the wormhole decloaked, locking the Cynabal and opening fire.

“Need a scram on the Cyna, confirm point!” I commanded.

“Got a point!” yelled Shocks, burning his Loki toward the Cynabal.

Yellow boxes on the HUD turned red as the Cynabal opened fire on me. The Onyx and both Orcas decloaked, and my warp drive became unavailable as the heavy interdictor’s warp disruption field coalesced around us.

“One of the Orca’s just jumped back here!” called Winter from his location on the far side of the static. “Orca cloaked.”

The Cynabal’s shields start dropping under the combined fire of half a dozen Tier 3 Cruisers, but it was already pulling away from us. “Cyna’s dual-propped.” I called as my battleship-rated afterburner flared to life and I took chase. “Winter, get back over here.”

My point lock on the Cynabal fell, as it first managed to use its afterburners to outrun the warp scrambler my fleetmate had on it, then switched to a microwarpdrive, putting a hundred kilometers between us in seconds.

The second Orca — the one that hadn’t been sitting on the far side of the wormhole for awhile and which was obviously still polarized by passing through the anomaly twice in a few seconds — was aligning to warp away from the wormhole, but was trapped by his own ally’s warp disruption bubble.

Then the Onyx’s bubble vanished.

“Orca is primary. Confirm point on the Orca! Need a 3-point! CAN ANYONE CONFIRM A THREE POINT?” I yelled on comms.

“Confirmed,” Brehm said, cool and collected as he always is during a fight.

“Confirmed scram on the Orca!” yelled Winter at almost the exact same instant, burning clear of the wormhole he’d just jumped through.

“Falcon on grid,” announced Prot, piloting his Jihad alt “Rabid”, a bare-bones Bomber pilot with a few kills already under his belt.

“Bump the Orca! Orca is primary!” I ordered.

“Onyx is getting away!” shouted someone, their pilot ID lost in the confusion.

“Get a point on that Onyx, chase him; he’s trying to make a break for it!” I yelled.

“I’m jammed, lost my point,” said Winter, his Loki ramming into the Orca’s shields to push the big ship out of alignment — force works when technology fails.

“Got the Onyx!” shouted Shocks, chasing the heavy interdictor as it tried to clear the main body of the fight.

I chased after the Onyx while keeping guns on the Orca, whittling it into structure with my comrades, overheated my warp disruptor and caught him; I wasn’t going to let any other ships get away from us.

“Falcon has me jammed,” call Shocks as the Orca exploded, its wreck adorning the wormhole in a shower of light, the pod was gone in the blink of an eye.

We then turned our full attention to the Onyx and the Falcon.

“Bump the Onyx guys, don’t let it get away. Rabid, you’re the fastest align; warp out and come back in on top of that Falcon, now!” I said as I, also jammed, rammed my Loki into the limping Onyx. The falcon was delaying us, but he couldn’t jam all our ships; a mixture of Stasis Webifiers and Energy Neutralizers played over the ship’s hull, dragging it to a near halt and draining the capacitor dry.

“I’m gonna get that Falcon,” Brehm called, his Tengu already turning away from the doomed Onyx, his heavy afterburner overheated, his warp disruptor overheated and at the ready.

We continued firing on the Onyx, its strong tank holding out for over a minute against the onslaught of our fleet, even drained of power.

“Falcon’s gone. Warped out,” Brehm called as the Onyx’s one remaining fleet mate on the field made a hasty exit.

We continued pounding on the Onyx as Rabid reported in. “I’ve got three of them inside the shieds at their towers.”

I watched the Onyx explode from meters away as my Loki rammed through the wreckage, setting the wormhole alight a second time. “Nice work.”

“Wasn’t there another ship around here somewhere?” Winter asked. “Besides that second Orca?”

“Oh shit, we forgot about the Typhoon!”


So, lessons learned:

  • If you’re worried they’re going to find the wormhole that leads to your system, they’ve already found it.
  • Don’t use a heavy interdictor to cover your wormhole crashing operation. This kills the Orca.
  • Cynabals are fast. They can’t brawl it out with six tech 3s, but holy hell are they good at getting away when things go pear-shaped.
  • Two warp core stabilizers don’t help when your attacker has an expensive faction warp scrambler with extra disruption strength.
  • Patience pays off. Rushing gets you killed.

And that’s about it for now. Thanks to Pell for sending over the attacker’s side of the fight — it’s interesting to see things from the side you weren’t on.

Life in a Wormhole: Time and Relative Dimension In Space #eveonline

Time for a bit more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff to help get caught up to current events.

Trippy.

The biggest challenge with wormholes is staying engaged. If you’re engaged and doing stuff, then wormhole living is the best thing in any MMO I’ve ever played. If, however, you’re in the mood for a more passive gaming experience, where you just sit back and let some random NPC tell you to go kill ten rats, then wormholes can be kind of a drag, simply because there are no such NPCs out in wormhole space, and you’re left at the mercy of your fellow wormhole pilots (friendly or not) to provide some entertainment. If you’re not in the mood to scan the home system, you’d better hope someone else is. If you want to shoot at someone but can’t be arsed to go find them, odds are you won’t have much to do tonight.

The problem we’re running into in the current hole is that the “level” of the hole (a class two, on a difficulty scale from one to six), isn’t particularly challenging in and of itself. I can easily remember times when the sleepers filled me with a healthy amount of respect, but between better training and more knowledge of the content, those days are fairly well past. In short, simply shooting sleepers in a class two isn’t the draw it might have once been. We’re looking for either bigger or more frequent challenges, and that’s what most of the activity this week amounts to:

Perhaps in Lowsec?
While running out to Amarr for some parts, I decide to detour for a random solo roam through the low-sec systems our hole is connected to, looking for trouble. Trouble, however, seems to have taken the night off, and I return to the hole with no kills or losses to report.

Perhaps a Merger?
A couple days later, Em and I sit down for a long talk with one of our alliance mates who lives in a wormhole similar to ours, except that instead of a static connection to low-sec and more class two wormhole space, his system connects to high-sec and class Four wormhole space. The set-up sounds like a lot of fun. Runs to known space are even easier, sure, but one of the fun draws is the fact that, if you open up the wormhole to highsec all the time, the signature tends to lure in curious exploration pilots — the results can be fun and often hilarious. Also, having access to higher-level wormholes with more challenging content and (potentially) more skilled pilots to fight sounds fun as well.

It’s a good talk, and leaves Em and I discussing where we’d like to see our two corps in the near and distant future.

Perhaps a Roam with RvB?
Sometimes “Ganked” null-sec roams with Red versus Blue can be a lot of fun. Other times, it’s more like this one, which amounts to ten minutes of fun packed into many hours of aimless wandering and miscommunication. Honestly? I think everyone involved is too sober.

Perhaps on Sisi?
I join up with Em, CB, and Shan to try out various types of ships on the test server and to practice catching ships on wormholes and gates (and escaping from people trying to catch you). It’s good fun, although the overview when I’m logged in is basically non-functional and very nearly makes the game unplayable.

Still, we have a good time and get in an entertaining scuffle with a pilot from Eclipse., ending in a long conversation about ship fittings and overheating tactics that shows me a lot of the cool things you can do with underrated ships. Pity about the overview, though — damned if that little excel-like grid isn’t basically the heart and soul of everything that happens in space in EvE. In a lot of ways, the game is just the old text-based Battletech MUSE that I used to play in college, with cool graphics added — all the real work still happens by interacting with the text grid.

Perhaps a re-match with the Same T3 cloaky cruisers that we pushed out of the home system a few weeks ago?
Umm… no, that doesn’t sound like much fun at all.

Oh. We don’t get a choice? Well, damn…

More on that tomorrow, in its own post.

Life in a Wormhole: Let’s do the Time Warp #eveonline

Holy moly, I’m behind. Under normal circumstances, things posted here are time-delayed several weeks to a month, but now? Looking at my notes, I’m almost two and a half months behind. Let’s see if I can rectify that, somewhat.

When we last left our heroes, we’d just managed to push, trick, trip, or luck our way into removing some enemy tech3 cruisers from the home system. Our assumption is they’ll be back, eventually, but for now we call things good. Let’s hit the highlights of what went on after that.

Thrashed
CB and Ty made use of a convenient high-sec exit to sell some loot and pick up some of the shined-up versions of the once old-and-clunky assault frigate. No idea what we’ll use them for in a wormhole (aside from running anomalies in Class 1 wormholes), but they sure are pretty. While I’m out puttering around, CB reports a Drake running sleeper sites in the class two wormhole we’ve been using as an exit route, but my return sends this denizen of highsec scurrying back to the light.

Or wait, maybe he didn’t run away because of me: maybe he ran away because the local inhabitants of the system woke up and jumped into their own sleeper-running ships. Why yes, that seems to be what’s happening; we spot a Typhoon-class battleship (a bit of an odd choice for class 2 sites, but whatever) and a Thrasher destroyer (probably the salvager). CB skitters back home to get a hurricane, and I try to set up a proper mugging of the Typhoon, but sadly my poor cloaky proteus is far too slow to catch up to the ‘phoon as it jets around the site, at least not without decloaking, and I rather doubt the pilot will stick around if I show myself prematurely.

No worries: We’ll just jump the Thrasher when it shows up to loot the wrecks, instead. This proves to be much easier and fairly profitable to boot (also, amusing, since I’m even able to catch and pop the pilot’s escape pod, thanks to it getting hung up on some structures).

Let’s Not and Say We Did
The weekend’s scanning leads us through a class one wormhole and into another class two, unfortunately inhabited by members of the same alliance who originally started the whole problem with the group of pilots whom we just kicked out of our hole. Do we want to tussle with these guys again, and possibly end up with those same pilots back in our system? No, we do not. Luckily, the hard-to-close class 1 connection dies of old age before our unwelcome neighbors realize we’re there.

Moon Them as we Drive By
We had a very convenient exit about a week later that let CB and me move some ships out of the wormhole and over to a corporate office we’ve set up as a staging area for nullsec PvP. Which ships? All kinds, but mostly those that are better suited for Null-sec pvp (where small-group conflicts tend to happen at the 10 to 40 kilometer range) than wormhole PvP (where fights usually happen within 5 km or less). We have way, way, WAY too many ships in the tower anyway, so I’m happy to haul out a couple Talos battlecruisers, some of our less-used interceptors, and a bevy of “cheap roam fitting” tech1 cruisers that we’ve played with in the past.

Now all we have to do is find time to fly them and get them blown up.

Our offloading is marginally (VERY marginally) inconvenienced by some maneuvering with members of Moon Warriors who, while better known as a nullsec alliance active in Syndicate, also seem to have members in the wormhole system we’re using as an exit. We circle the lot of them for a while, but can’t seem to get them to engage. Ahh well.

Class Five is a Gas
We got a weird, rare connection to a Class Five wormhole, out of which I extract more than a little of the rich, ladar-emitting fullerene gasses that the kids are all huffing these days. Tweed does better scanning than I do, however, and finds another very strange wormhole connection — one straight from the c5 out to conveniently located highsec. I take the opportunity to pick up a Scimitar logistics ship and a Rapier force recon, then CB and I trudge back out to highsec to do prep work for a battleship-sized roam of nullsec that’s been arranged with another alliance. We have NOT had good experiences roaming with this other alliance in the past, but I talk CB into at least doing the prep work. He puts together a fairly hellish blaster-toting Dominix, while I set up a nasty, short-range Typhoon. We may be as near-sighted as a rhino, but between the two of us we’re as dangerous as angry hippos. Rawr.

The original Hunger Games.

The Host has Not Yet Joined this Call…
Unsurprisingly, the guy who’s supposed to be running the battleship roam is late to his own party. He logs in five minutes before we’re supposed to actually start and two hours late for the actual mustering time and announces that he’s still out in wormhole space.

At which point about half of the people on the comms reply that they are all still out in wormhole space as well. Why did we even bother prepping a whole day early?

Oh yeah, because we actually respect other people’s fucking time.

So rather than wait, we say screw this, and CB and I hop in Rifters and go roaming around on in the Syndicate region for awhile. Two HOURS later, we’re on our way back to home base and actually fly through the battleship fleet we’d decided not to wait for. They have made it three whole jumps into nullsec, and are hung up on a gate, apparently too scared to jump through the gate and into the enemy force half their size waiting on the other side. We slip past both groups and finish up with no kills but — it must be said — a lot less stress than we’d have otherwise had. Call it a win. (Except for yet another set of ships we’ve built and then never used for a half-assed, poorly-organized roam. Seriously, guys: take a couple classes from Agony Unleashed and see how it’s done.)

Once that’s done, we unload yet more unlikely-to-see-use ships from the wormhole, focusing on the redundant or highly specialized.

The trick with ship selection in wormholes is to avoid too much specialization in a ship. Yes, all ships have primary roles — interceptors should be interceptors — that’s fine, but a cruiser that isn’t any use except to lure in a fast frigate and kill it, while cool and fun, is of limited to no use in a wormhole. Ships you bring out to a wormhole should be capable vs. any opponent (within reason) — with something useful to do no matter the enemy; no more of these “oh, if it’s not a frigate, there’s no point in flying it” ships.

In short, there’s a reason battlecruisers are so common in wormholes.

Mammoth Undertaking
I get an email from CB sayin that a Mammoth-class hauler has been lost and that he and Ichi were both involved. What?

Oh! They killed a Mammoth. That’s much better.

Apparently, some inhabitants in a class two wormhole opened a connection to us, left the connection open, and decided to… do some mining. They were wrapping up operations when Tweed found them, but had left multiple time-stamped canisters in the field to retrieve, which gave our guys a great guideline as to where to be and how soon they needed to get there. (Dear miners: renaming your cans of ore so that they tell everyone nearby when you’ll be back? Always do this. Thanks.)

Anyway, while Tweed sussed out the location, Ichi and CB got into stealth bombers and then proceeded to use them on the hauler to great effect.

I’m unfortunately not as lucky.

I log in a few hours after the highjinx; our system is quiet and Tweed is still watching our neighbors. No sooner do I arrive than Tweed announces a sudden flurry of activity and one of the pilots switching into a Sigil hauler and warping off to one of the planets in system.

Em and I are both online, but we weren’t exactly prepared to run an ambush because we figured the neighbors would have more sense than to do more hauling with a dangerous connection still up — silly us. We both scramble into stealth bombers while Tweed warps around trying to tackle the hauler with his Anathema covert ops frigate. He gets close, but the pilot only stops at a few planets and returns to his tower. Boo.

But wait! The pilot reships into an Imicus scanning frigate and flies slowly outside the tower’s forcefield to fiddle with a storage canister cunningly labeled with the pilot’s name. (Dear pilots: always do this too.) Once he arrives, he drops scanning probes and proceeds to scan while floating, fully visible, with no protection except the tower’s guns, which take forever to lock anything as small as a bomber.

Clearly, we need to do something.

Em and I line up bombing runs, which goes off perfectly except for one TINY detail: since we were cloaked up, we didn’t realize that we were flying different types of bombers and dropping different types of bombs, so rather than killing the Imicus with two massive explosions, we only get one massive explosion (Em’s) which strips the Imicus’s shields and armor… and destroys my bomb before it detonates. Darn it. This is what we get for hurrying.

Somewhat Back to Normal
Cabbage is in the mood to run some sleeper sites, and we have a good system next door to do so. Cab and I shoot the enemy sentient ship thingies while CB runs salvager operations in the HMS Generous Donation. Cab’s time is limited, so we focus on higher profit and/or less annoying sites for a little over an hour, netting 275 million isk, split 3 ways. Not too shabby. CB and Cab log, I run the loot out to Rens and take the time to set up a non-wormhole-dwelling corpmate with one of our spare Myrmidon battlecruisers to use for running missions while he trains a few more skills to come join us.

Time Travel Complete. Doctor Whooves is pleased.

But Wait, There’s More…

Not today, though. We’re a bit caught up, but I’d say we’ve still got a month or more to go. Tune in tomorrow.

Mass Effect, Creative License, and the Rights of the Player in a Story/Game #me3

This post is (thankfully) going to be shorter than yesterday’s. I wasn’t going to write another one on this topic at all, but there was a really good comment on yesterday’s post that led to a really long reply on my part — so long that I figured it would be better served as a post of its own.

The reason it’s interesting to me is because it has to do with the weird line between the traditional cultural definitions of “story” and “game” that a product like Mass Effect walks.

So, yesterday, Kaelri wrote (in part):

Frankly, I do believe that art is inviolate – that is to say, I don’t believe an artist has some sort of moral obligation to address the grievances of audience members who don’t happen to like what they came up with. If I’m a fan of a thing, it’s because I found the product and liked it; and if I choose to support it, as an advocate or a consumer or both, they still don’t owe me nothin’. Maybe they “should” pay attention to me for the sake of their business model, but that’s different from saying they “should” listen to me as though my fandom makes me a shareholder in the creative process.

First off, I get exactly where you’re coming from. I would even agree with you — when it comes to traditional media, a writer or really any creative person of any kind is not obliged to make fan-demanded changes to their work, unless they’re trying to make a more saleable product, or they just want to because their work would be better that way.

They can refuse, as I said in my original post — it might mean they never get published or that they never reach a wider audience, but that’s entirely their choice… when it comes to traditional media.

But, as I said yesterday, Mass Effect is something other than traditional media, which is why I’m going to disagree with you when it comes to this particular artistic work, and others like it:

I believe that we — the participants in the Mass Effect games — are co-creators.

Now, that’s a big statement, so let me dig into it a bit. This certainly isn’t true of every game out there — no one is complaining that they didn’t get enough creative input into the ending of Braid, because that isn’t what Braid is about — it’s not that kind of game.

Mass Effect, however, is that kind of game. It’s a conscious and (as I said in my made-up LotR example) difficult thing to do, but it is undeniably a can of worms Bioware chose to open, and once it’s open, they’re pretty much stuck with the consequences. The players have control of a lot of stuff that happens in the game series, if only with a binary yes/no level of input, and having extended them that authorship power you have, to a greater or lesser degree, given them access to the canvas and the right to call foul if they disagree with what you’re painting.

Again, this is not the case in every game out there (and it is not true of any traditional media of which I’m aware), but it is the case with Mass Effect. I can (with studious and somewhat questionable effort) entirely remove even someone like Garrus from all but a few scenes in the entire game series (the equivalent of having Samwise in one scene in Fellowship, no scenes at all in Two Towers, and writing him in as a bit-part escort for the last couple chapters of Return of the King). I decide whether many if not all of the character’s live and die and, with ME3, my influence is extended to the point where I can effectively wipe out two whole species.

It’s fair to say that Bioware is steering the A-plot, but when it comes to dictating the very tapestry against which that plot plays out, I am being dealt a lot of cards, and the hand that I play is a strong one. Certainly, my control over the personal stories in all three games is ironclad, and would be argued by many to be the most important and interesting bits.

So am I, at some level, a co-creator?

In indie tabletop RPG design, there’s an idea that some call “The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.” It refers to the classic, old-school RPG notion that “The GM is the author of the story and the players direct the actions of the protagonists.”

The term was coined to illustrate the fact that story is made of the actions and choices of the protagonists, so claiming to control one but not the other is senseless. If you have influence on the story at all, you exert influence on the protagonists, and if you truly control the actions of the protagonists, you have real and concrete influence on the story.

Or you should.

And, to be fair, Bioware did a fantastic job throughout ME1 and ME2 with giving players that kind of control and influence. (They’re not as good about it in ME3, but they’ve (sadly) compensated by becoming very skilled at disguising a lack of choice with something that feels like you’re making a decision.)

I would say that one of the biggest problems with the end of ME3 — or at least the part that causes the loudest initial outcry — is that it very baldly revokes that player-authorship at the point in the story where the players want it most.

To say that the players — while certainly not equal partners in the process, but creative contributors nonetheless — should have no say in the conclusion of the story they helped create is unfair, and to defend it by hiding behind “artistic expression”, as Bioware has done, is an insult to the players’ input throughout the series and a rather crude misrepresentation of what Mass Effect has been to both the creators and the players for the last five years.

Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process

[The following was originally posted on my main blog, but as it’s gaming-related, I figured I’d put it over here as well.]

Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.

In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.

Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.

If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.

It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.

Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.

But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.

Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).

And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).

And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)

Are you with me so far?

Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.

And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.

The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.

And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.

And Tom explains your options.

Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.

Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.

None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?

Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?

But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.

So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…

And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.

Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…

Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?

Alright… umm… let’s check #3…

Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.

And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.

What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?

So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.

And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)

So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.

Now, let’s go a bit deeper.

Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically spelling out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.

But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…

They get Steven R. Donaldson.

(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)

So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.

Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.

What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).

The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?

So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a Reaper that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).

Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.

Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?

But Why All the Hate?

The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.

Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I (because of my background in certain types of tabletop role-playing games where players get as much say in the story as the guy running the game) think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it’s a story, and it affects me as a story does, and there it is. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, therefore duck.

But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.

And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.

You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…

It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.

In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.

And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.

In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.

Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.

(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)

In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.

"Hard to imagine galaxy. To many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."

(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)

The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.

The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.

And then…

And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.

Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.

As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.

This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.

This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).

Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.

Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.

But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).

The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.

The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.

The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.

But It’s Art!
There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”

Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.

If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)

Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.

Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.

But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?

Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.

Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.

Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.

Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process

It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.

In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.

Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.

If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.

It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.

Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.

But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.

Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).

And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).

And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)

Are you with me so far?

Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.

And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.

The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.

And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.

And Tom explains your options.

Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.

Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.

None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?

Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?

But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.

So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…

And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.

Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…

Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?

Alright… umm… let’s check #3…

Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.

And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.

What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?

So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.

And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)

So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.

Now, let’s go a bit deeper.

Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.

But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…

They get Steven R. Donaldson.

(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)

So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.

Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.

What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).

The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?

So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).

Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.

Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?

But Why All the Hate?

The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.

Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.

But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.

And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.

You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…

It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.

In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.

And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.

In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.

Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.

(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)

In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.

"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."

(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)

The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.

The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.

And then…

And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.

Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.

As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.

This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.

This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).

Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.

Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.

But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).

The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.

The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.

The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.

But It’s Art!
There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”

Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.

If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)

Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.

Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.

But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?

Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.

Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.

Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.

Offline

So. Yeah. Here’s a post.

My kids' effect on my online time.
My attempts to get any kind of decent sleep.
The net sum of everything going on in my brain right now.

Apologies to those waiting on posts. Triple apologies to the guys in EvE, whom I haven’t even seen in like a week and a half.

Kids are awesome, but some weeks are less awesome than others.

Life in a Wormhole: No so much with the Pinatas, Actually #eveonline

So the deal with POS Pinata Day is that EvE is implementing a change to the way that player-owned towers are going to be fueled, and PPD is the date on which the towers will switch over to the new fuel (which is actually a Soylent Green style fuel cube composed of all the little fuel bits we used to have to feed into the tower separately).

Anyway, the theory is that people take breaks from MMOs, and that some of those people own Towers, and that some of those towers are out in wormhole space and, when the fuel switch-over happens, will suddenly be without power and, thus, without force fields.

So come the day of the switch, lots of wormhole dwellers (and those in other parts of EvE, I’m sure) are planning to jump from system to system looking for magically-offlined towers, fragile and filled with loot.

We planned that as well.

There were just two things we hadn’t considered.

1. It's the the middle of the week.

Our pilots put in a lot of extra effort in the recent system-defense shenanigans, and now that that’s no longer an ongoing issue, we have some non-EvE things that need our attention. Yes, we’re all fairly certain those pilots will be back, and continue to habitually hit d-scan whenever we see any of them log in, but for now things are back to normal, and we have other priorities to see to.

2. Searching through a bunch of systems for offline towers requires a lot of wormhole-crashing.

Suggesting we crash wormholes all night long - for fun - was not an idea met with a lot of enthusiasm.

Do we poke around a couple of wormholes? Sure, but when we find nothing valuable in the first constellation of systems and the time comes to roll our current class-two connection and start over, we sort of decide we have better things to do.

In this case, that means getting into various fast frigates and drag-racing each other while one of our pilots shoots at everyone with a hurricane. Sounds kind of silly, but we could honestly use some silly right now.

There’s no big jackpot and no big explosions, but everyone’s on and having some fun together, so I have no problems at all chalking it up as a good night.

Frankly, we're all pretty tired, and our heart just isn't in the whole pinata smashing thing.

Life in a Wormhole: Day(s) of Rest #eveonline

All you cloaky t3s, GTFO.

Following the marathon efforts of the past few days, our pilots are ready for a bit of downtime. Once the ninth wormhole connection to lowsec dies, Shan scans down the new exit, but we don’t fly to it or activate it. Additionally, we crash the class two and class three wormhole connections currently up, verify that all the other signatures on scan are as-expected, and decree a 24-hour lockdown, just to make sure things are as they seem. (Tweed, out in low-sec, avoids stargates by scanning his way from low-sec and back into wormhole space, scanning from system to system until he emerges near the market of Rens, where he looses himself in the crowd.)

We refit the Rorqual for more pedestrian pursuits, and Gor does a bit of ore crushing inside the flying factory, which is kind of cool (and rare) to see. (If we have a regret about the time and effort we’ve put into the hole, it’s in the fact that we built the Rorqual and… really don’t use it much. It is nowhere near having paid for itself.)

But as I said, things are quiet. We don’t manage to stay in lockdown for the full twenty-four hours, due an inbound connection from another wormhole — one that is strangely empty of all inhabitants. The connection was apparently opened by a pilot in a Cheetah covert ops ship, exploring just for the sake of exploring and arriving in our system from somewhere farther away than next door. I’d tell people to keep an eye out for him, but everyone’s snoozing, and I am more than happy to get some much-needed rest before the event we’ve dubbed POS Pinata Day.

Life in a Wormhole: The Final Push #eveonline

“I’m going to kill him.”

“Is the hole dead?”

“I’m going to kill him, then buy him a new ship so I can kill him again.”

“Is the hole dead?”

“… No.”

“No?”

“Lucky bastard. Only reason he and his stupid hauler are alive right now is because the hole didn’t collapse, and I’m sure it will if I go out after him.”

There are many times when I am called upon to act as the voice of reason and diplomacy for my wormhole brethren.

When Dolby finally gets on our comms channel a few minutes later and asks if he can come back in to fly out his two Drake battlecruisers — that is not one of those times.

Em handled that conversation.

I take a few minutes for some relaxing exercise.

“Seriously, are we sure he’s not working for the guys in our hole?”

“The guys that blew up two of his ships?”

“Camouflage! No one would ever suspect!”

“I suspect everyone.” (This last from CB.)

“Let’s just assume he’s dangerously, smoking-while-pumping-gasoline stupid, and move on.”

Once that bit of drama is past (and Em has informed Dolby that his precious Drakes would be returned to him at some later date), we settle in and get ready for the final push. The time is (slowly) coming for the low-sec connection to die, and most of our pilots are online and ready to go. As soon as the aging connection finally wobbles, falls, and breaks its hip, Tweed starts scanning.

“Probes on scan.”

“That was fast.”

And it is. Something has changed: the Loki pilot is scanning far faster than he had the night before, when we’d joked that the last pilot left was the guy who tried to avoid scanning whenever possible. That was no longer our impression, especially when the pilot actually beat everyone but Tweed to the new wormhole.

Though, to be fair, this was partly because we had all stayed in cloaked-up ships and delayed reshipping until his probes went out, since we know how hard it is for a single pilot to scan quickly and still watch d-scan — we were hoping to catch him by surprise with ships he wasn’t suspecting, and it actually seemed to work. Like his fellow t3 pilot from the day previous, he engages the first Orca that lands, apparently thinking Berke is alone, though he quickly disengages and jumps to the low when our other pilots land on site. Still, we fell pretty good about this: despite his cloaking ability and almost 24 hours in which to observe us, we had managed to conceal our numbers, like Sand People.

This pilot is also making much more agressive choices in an effort to get his comrades back into our hole, including not waiting out the polarization timer before reentering the system, risking being pinned against the hole if we can catch him, but (correctly) trusting on his cloak and speed to get away.

On the seventh hole (the first one today), he pops out just long enough to get a destination system for his friends to fly toward, then jumps back into the hole and gets away before we can target or catch him. We crash the hole and make good time for the eighth, which sees pretty much exactly the same scene play out again, although when the loki jumps back into the hole and cloaks before warping away, Shan is able to get close enough to him with a surge of his Hurricane’s microwarpdrive to decloak him again — but not to bump him off course before he gets away; a near miss.

“Hold on that last jump,” Em calls. “Leave the hole standing for a minute. We need to think about this.”

“Concerns?”

“Yeah.” Em pauses. “We’re just going to end up doing this thing over and over again, and eventually something’s either going to go wrong for us, or him — and it’s more likely going to be us, since there’s more of us. It’s a war of attrition, and it’s going to cost us pilots trapped outside again. We need to try something new.”

“Sounds good. But…”

“Can you…” Em begins, “work out a jump that we can do, with some but not all of the pilots we have available, that will kill the hole with a single jump?”

“One-way or out-and-back?”

“Out and back.”

I look over the list of pilots we have and nod. “Sure. Me, Bre, and Cret in battleships. Si and Berke in Orcas.”

“Okay,” says Em. “Okay. Good. So here’s what we’re going to do…”


Enemy probes are already on d-scan, anticipating the death of the old hole and the appearance of the next.

“This guy really wants this one.”

“I hope so. We need him in a rush.”

All the pilots involved in the new plan are sitting at their respective towers, readying new ships, but NOT reshipping into them. CB is floating in our shields, ready to jump into his Sabre interdictor, which is a ship we hadn’t made any use of up til now, simply because cloak-equipped tech 3 ships are also often fit with Interdiction Nullifier modules that let them ignore the Warp Disruption “bubbles” the Sabre can launch at a moment’s notice. While we’d crashed hole number eight, however, Tweed had noticed that this Loki didn’t seem to be configured that way.

“You know you’re going to get blown up,” I say to CB.

“Oh yeah.” CB tone is sanguine and dismissive. He has a peculiar collection of names, related to his many Sabres — not deaths, but all of the Tech3 cruiser pilots who have specifically targeted and destroyed his ships in retaliation for dropping warp disruption bubbles that might cost them their shiny ships.

“All right then,” I say. “Here we go.”

Berke jumps back into the system, the hole dies, and Tweed starts scanning, doing everything he can to not just beat, but bury the opposing pilot, tightening his scan probes two range brackets at a time rather than one, risking losing the signature entirely in an effort to give us enough time to pull off our maneuver. He gets a lock on the hole, warps to 0, and we send two Orcas and three battleships to his location. As soon as they land, all the ships (including Tweed’s) light propulsion mods to increase their mass and jump through the hole, dropping its stability by just over half with a single jump.

Then, we hold.

The enemy loki is still scanning.

“Okay, everyone else, warp to the hole.”

The rest of our pilots drop in and hold, ready to attack the Loki as soon as he lands. They include two battlecruisers, a Tengu strategic cruiser, and CB’s interdictor, sitting directly on top of the wormhole.

The probes vanish off d-scan, and CB launches his warp disruption bubble. The Loki lands seventeen kilometers off the hole and burns for the exit, targeting CB’s Sabre and popping the fragile ship in three volleys, but as he does, two of our pilots get warp scrambling fields on him, and Em decloaks his Falcon and starts jamming the Loki’s targeting systems.

Now, it’s possible that with so much going on, he simply never notices that the hole is already visibly destablized past the halfway point. It’s equally (perhaps more) likely that he does notice, but faced with two scrams on him, a warp bubble, and more ships than even a tech3 cruiser can easily manage, he chooses to jump through the wormhole over the more explosive alternative.

In any case, he jumps. Our scout inside the hole calls it out, and as he does, all our big ships fire up their engines and jump back, leaving him hanging in empty space.

At this point, there may have been some shouting on our comms.

Tweed (also stranded out in low-sec, but safe-as-houses in his covert-ops ship) gives the pilot a smile in the local comms channel, and gets a reply.

“Good fight.”

“Thanks man. It was… It was fun.”

And Tweed’s right. It was.

Now let’s never do it again.

Life in a Wormhole: The (Surround)Sound of Stupid #eveonline

I finally force myself to take a break a few hours later, leaving Pax, Em, and Shan watching things while I get some rest.

When I return, only Shan is around to greet me, but like Radagast he has many beasts and birds doing his bidding, so everything still watched.

“How’d you sleep?” Shan asks. In the background of his voice comms, I can hear the constant pinging sound of the scanning probes with which he’s blanketed the system.

“Eh.” I do some math, frowning. “How did YOU sleep?”

“Haven’t yet.” (ping-a ping-a ping-a)

Dude.”

“It’s all right. I got my second wind.” (ping-a ping-a ping-a)

“How long have you been up?”

“… it’s coming up on 28 hours.” (ping-a ping-a ping-a)

Dude.”

“I’ll take a nap in a while.” (ping-a ping-a ping-a)

“And when you do, you’re going to dream about that scanning probe sound.”

“… huh. Yeah. I don’t even hear it anymore.”

“It’s just blonde… brunette… redhead…”

“Exactly.”

I drop back into my Arazu force recon cruiser retrofitted for emergency hole crashing and park myself next to the low-sec entrance, chatting with Shan and getting caught up. No one’s seen any sign of the last Loki pilot, things have been quiet, and we have another five hours before our class two connection will die of old age.

It’s another two hours before we manage to convince Shan to take a break, and he’s back only a few hours after that, in plenty of time to help out when our Class Two connection dies and will be replaced by a fresh wormhole.

About thirty minutes before this is likely to happen, we see several of the “occupy” pilots logging in and, like clockwork, the class two connection dies of old age and a Loki and enemy probes appear on d-scan — whatever we might say about our unwanted guests, their recon, planning, and coordination in small groups is damned impressive.

We scan as well, locating the new hole and getting heavy ships en route to weaken the hole.

“So we want to crit it?”

“Actually…” Em says. “Can you get it like… halfway down, but before its appearance changes, so that it looks stable but would only take a jump or two to kill? That might look more enticing for this guy.”

“Can do.”

“Guys,” Tweed calls, “I’m picking another new wormhole.”

I look at the low-sec connection right next to me. “Well, it’s not a new low-sec.”

“Scanning.”

A minute or two passes, and Tweed reports that we have a randomly-generated outbound connection to Class Three wormhole space, leading into a system that boasts only a static null-sec wormhole exit.

“Man…” says Tweed. “It’s too bad these guys are in here, cuz this system is really overgrown.”

“Great,” I mutter, than on comms, “Going to weaken that one too, but leave it looking healthy.”

“Copy that.”

Our ships proceed to jump and warp back and forth between the two holes in an intricate, planned dance. Feels like we’ve gotten pretty good at this stuff.

That’s about when Dolby logs in for the first time since The Talk.

“Damn, he isn’t gone yet?”

“I thought he was. Haven’t seen him since the talk.”

Everyone chuckles. The talk has been discussed.

“What’s he doing?”

“Looks like he’s at Cab’s tower.”

“Can anyone go look?”

“He’s in a Magnate.”

“A scanning frigate? Why –”

Em gets on the system text comms. “Dolby, we are currently closely watching and controlling access to all the wormholes in the system. Please do not approach or use any of them.”

No reply.

“He’s got probes out.”

I am nonplussed by Dolby's activities.

“God damn… how long until we have those two holes set?”

“We’re right in the middle of jumps.”

“If he jumps out of that low-sec…”

Em doesn’t have to finish the thought. If he jumps out of the low-sec, and the hole closes, a new one will appear, and we will be completely out of position to either defend or destroy it — quite a few of our pilots aren’t even on yet.

“He’s back at the tower.” Shan reports. “Looks like he’s reshipping into a… Bestower.”

“A hauler? Christ.”

“Dolby, do NOT jump through any of the wormholes right now.”

No response.

Unless you count the Bestower that drops out of warp right next to the low-sec exit, then jumps.

Life in a Wormhole: The Race, Part Two #eveonline

So here’s a thing about wormholes: they are persnickety fucking things.

As a general of thumb, a wormhole can take a certain amount of mass before collapsing. Let’s say that mass is 2 million kilograms or something like that. Let’s also say that an Orca, running a mass-increasing Microwarpdrive, has a mass of about 300,000, so that by going out and coming back through the wormhole, you’ve ‘stressed’ that hole by 600,000. Let’s further say that a battleship running a microwarpdrive has a mass roughly half that of the orca.

Basically, in that scenario, three round-trips in an Orca with “engines hot”, plus a round-trip by a single battleship, also engines hot, should kill the hole every single time, and if you do it all in the right order, everyone will be sitting on the correct side of the wormhole when that happens, every single time. The same thing can be managed with 7 total round trips in a battleship or group of battleships, or any combination thereof.

But it doesn’t always work that way. That 2,000,000 limit (and I think I’m probably dropping three zeros off that, but whatever) varies by quite a lot. Sometimes you get a hole that is REALLY light, and you jump out for that final collapse only to find the hole closing behind you, stranding you on the wrong side.

And sometimes the hole is heavy, and although you do everything right, you’re left staring a hole that’s critically unstable, but not dead, with no way to know how much more it can take.

Also? Those strategic cruisers heading our way are small — the chance that hole will collapse from only one of them going through is very small… and frankly, that’s not the way our luck has been going.

“Do we have another Onyx?”

“Yeah,” Em says. “Ichi has one, but it’s not configured for doing the hole-closing trick.”

“I’ve…” Pax interrupts. He’s been quiet for much of the offensive, though he is probably our most experienced pilot — a deft hand in PvP, with a library of positively diabolical ship fittings, and always willing to give advice and training to our newer pilots. “I’ve got something I can try. Hang on.”

Pax warps away from the wormhole in his Stilleto interceptor (which he’d been trying to use to snag the Loki before it cloaked up and warped away). “I’ve got a Rapier I can refit to do something like your Onyx trick.”

“Refit?” I glance back at the hole. “Do we have time?”

“Sure, I just take off the appropriately sized microwarpdrive…” I can hear him doing so as he speaks. “Put on a battleship-sized propulsion module… make sure I have the really heavy armor plate on… Okay, in warp back to the hole.”

“You won’t be as small as the Onyx, going out,” Em warns him. “The disruption bubbles make it lighter than a shuttle; the hole might die on your trip out.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Pax’s voice is calm. “If the hole dies on me, I can cloak and warp off — that’s why I’m using a force recon.”

“I suppose it’s better you’re out there and they aren’t in here.”

“Exactly.” Pax lands on the hole and jumps.

The hole doesn’t collapse. Now, of course, the concern is that Pax won’t be able to increase his mass far enough to kill the hole in a single jump back.

“Waiting on the session change timer — I can see the pilots in local.” He pauses. “And on d-scan. Turning on the prop mod. Two of the pilots are — they’re here — RIGHT here. Just landed. Eight thousand meters. Engines are hot. Jumping through.”

The hole flares with Pax’s jump.

Wobbles.

Stabilizes.

Then vanishes.

“NICE job,” Em says.

Five pilots have been pushed out of our system.

“Probes are out,” Tweed calls. “Scanning for new hole.”

“We’ve got to be close to their quitting time,” I say. “Don’t we?”

“Maybe.” Em’m voice is quiet, then he chuckles. “If nothing else, they have to be getting tired of all the gate jumping they’re having to do. Between the five rolled holes, this has to have been fifty or sixty jumps for some of them.”

“This tour of New Eden brought you courtesy of our pilots, the letter W, and viewers like you. Thank you.”

“Really?”

“My kid watches a lot of Sesame Street.”

“I’ve got the new hole,” Tweed says. “In warp.”

“Copy that. Have we we seen enemy probes?”

“Yeah,” Shan replies. “They just came out.”

“He’s getting slower.”

“He’s getting tired, probably.”

“Okay,” says Em. “Lets stress this hole, but we’re getting close to closing time for these guys, so let’s not kill it yet. Let’s see if he even tries to get them in. I’m betting they won’t want to do another run this late at night. Hell, getting the last hole slammed shut in their face probably sucked for them, too.”

“Probably, considering how much it would have sucked for us if it had gone the other way.”

We proceed with the hole-stressing jumps, and Em’s guess looks like a good one — the enemy probes converge on the hole and vanish, but no ship follows them. It looks as though he’s simply scouted the hole, taken the measure of our preparations, and decided to wait.

“Hole is crit.”

“Okay,” I say. “I’ll cloak up on this hole with a force recon ship fit out like Pax’s brilliant Rapier. If this loki tries to jump out, I’ll follow him and kill the hole. The C2 is critical as well, right?”

“Yup.”

“Great. We just need eyes on that hole as well, in case he sneaks out that way and tries to scan a way in.”

“It’s going to take him awhile if he does,” Tweed comments. “I poked my head in there earlier — there’s something like 50 signatures to sort through to find the exit.”

“Perfect.” I sit for a second, stifling a yawn. “Okay, I’m good for awhile. Who’s going to get some sleep?”

“It’s the middle of the day for me,” comments Pax.

“I’ve got a least a few more hours in me,” murmurs Shan, our lookout for the entire evening.

“Alright, well, I’m on the low-sec exit number…” I squint at my notes. “Number six. Jesus, nice job, guys.”

“I’m here too,” says Em.

“Cool.” I check the clock. “Everyone else, get some sleep. Both the holes are useless for these guys for now, and the c2 doesn’t die of old age for 15 more hours.”

“Nothing else we can do?”

I glance at the corner of the screen, were my watchlist has just informed me that the enemy tengu pilot has logged off. “They’re logging out for the night, which means no more attempts to get in. We need those guys trying to get in if we’re going to get this last guy out.”

“Gotcha.”

The comms go largely silent, like the space around us, and we settle in for the worst part of any conflict; the waiting.

Life in a Wormhole: The Race, Part One #eveonline

Summary of Events

Following a system assault conducted by members of our alliance, some of the corps involved in defending that system decided it would be fun to keep shooting pilots wearing our alliance tag. While the regular inhabitants of our home system know not to lead enemy pilots back to our home system, we had very recently added a new pilot to the system who apparently grew up in some daisy-filled corner of Romanian Legion nullsec space where no one’s ever heard of OpSec, and who thinks the idea that someone might ignore Drake sleeper-killers to instead blow up the noctis salvager following them is Crazy Talk.

As a result of that pilot’s actions, an enemy alliance got an unknown number of pilots in the system, mostly in covert-ops-cloak-fitted Tech3 strategic cruisers.

The first two losses to those pilots were, karmically, ships flown by the pilot that led them back to the system. The kills were approximately six hours apart, by two different pilots, and went unreported, the intel not getting to the other pilots in-system until almost 20 hours later (thanks to night-cycles and downtime), when one of the enemy pilots took down a covert ops ship that was sitting uncloaked in open space, because his pilot was stupidly distracted.

At this point, the only awake pilot in the system was Ty, with Em in known space. Knowing only that the Tengu was active, Ty reshipped into a Cynabal (figuring it for both enticing killmail bait and dangerous enough to handle a stealth-fit T3), and jumped out to the low system to get Em a route home. The Cynabal proved to be lure enough to get the pilots to show their hand; the Tengu jumped into the low after him, and when Ty jumped back into the home system, the tengu was joined by two Lokis, landing on the hole. Ty was able to escape, thanks to a combination of the Cynabal’s agility and the targeting recalibration delay most cloak-fit ships suffer.

Now with more intel, we hit the killboards and were able to work out pilots who were most likely to be in the system, based on the enemy alliance’s use of t3s, combined with observing who tended to group up in small 3 to 4-pilot gangs for kills. Em also determined the activity cycle of the enemy pilots by looking at WHEN they got kills (luckily — or unluckily — we had a lot of kill-data to work with) — we determined we were dealing with pilots from the US, probably the Midwest, with almost 100% of their activity from 0000 to 0700 GMT.

We added this information, including both suspected and verified pilot names to our system channel MOTD, with instructions to add all those pilots to watch lists, lock down all non-essential activities in system, and if at all possible to say cloaked and safed up.

Non-essential tower modules were offlined, unanchored, and stored, and we filled the active tower grids back up with ECM modules and weaponry, with backups already armed and ready to be onlined.

We considered it equally likely that this was either a forward force for a full fleet invasion or a smaller ‘grief’ fleet, meant to pop soft or poorly-defended targets. Appropriately, we prepped for the full fleet invasion (the worst-case scenario), while denying the enemy opportunities for the latter.

A few days of staying cloaked-up and generally offline-during-enemy-active-cycles followed, and as the weekend approached, Bre tried to find an exit through our C2 static to bring in an armor-tanked Scorpion for potential fleet action, but while she were able to locate an exit, she got pinned between a polarized wormhole and a heavy interdictor flown by the very aggressive pilots in the neighboring c2. Upside: she got to a market where she could buy that Scorpion a lot faster than expected.

That afternoon we began the process of retaking control of our static exits, starting with crashing the current lowsec exit. We began with the returning Scorpion battleship, but were only able to get the hole about halfway crashed before the process was interrupted by the inhabitants of the neighboring C2, who were looking for a two-fer on Bre. We avoided this and waited for more pilots. Our second attempt had better support, and our scouts reported that while we’d been waiting, two of the enemy pilots inside our system had, for some unknown reason, left our system and taken off through known space. We obviously had to bring that lowsec exit down before they got back, interference or not.

The occupying pilots tried to interfere with the process, but they vacated the field when the neighboring C2 pilots showed up again — there were far too many guns around, and the occupying pilots’ cloaky tech3 ships were a much more enticing target for our neighbors than our heavily warp-stabilized, hole-crashing battleships. The hole crashed, and everyone got back to safe spots and/or towers. Left with no targets, the C2 pilots retreated to their hole.

Now then…


We’ve crashed and/or rolled a lot of wormholes — I don’t think there are many wormhole pilots who haven’t — but it’s a different sort of experience when there are enemy ships around and you’re under time pressure. It was very difficult waiting for Tweed to resolve the new wormhole location and warp to it.

“Let us know when you’re there,” I say.

“In warp,” says Tweed. “Okay, I’m there.”

I try to warp to his location, but the navigation systems can’t lock on. “It says you’re not in-system.”

“Oh… I… jumped through. Do you want me to jump back?”

“We need to get big ships down there to weaken the hole, so yes please.”

“Right. Right. Sorry, in a rush.”

“It’s okay, totally understand.”

Tweed jumps back, and reports that an “occupy” Loki is on the hole, then jumps out to low-sec.

“Let’s get down there. Are you warpable?”

“I am.”

We get into warp, but land over 10 kilometers from the hole in big, slow ships.

“Sorry. Sorry… I didn’t know what you were warping down here in.”

“No worries. We’ll get it sorted out.”

We crawl towards the hole and, finally, jump a couple battleships out to the lowsec, then back again, starting the wormhole crashing process. It’s now another four or five minutes before we can perform another jump.

“My polarization is done,” Tweed says. “Should I jump out into the lowsec?”

“Yeah, tell us where we are and if that Loki is still around.”

I look at the deceptively empty space around the wormhole, knowing that we had a number of cloaked up combat ships nearby, and expecting that the occupying pilots had the same — the reason that we were using battleships to close the hole rather than the far more massive Orca industrials we had on hand.

“This situation has got too many people involved,” I say to Em. “Let’s get that C2 connection killed off too, so we don’t have to deal with those guys.”

“Copy that.”

We get a scout into the Class Two, who reports no ships on scan, and we jump the battleships through and back to weaken that hole, then return to the low-sec exit just in time to begin another jump sequence. This part of the process goes relatively smoothly, but slower than we’re used to, due to using less than optimal ships for the process.

“The Loki pilot is out in here in the system,” Tweed says. “He’s not leaving and he’s not going back in. I can’t figure why he isn’t he going back in.”

There’s a pause, then Em speaks up. “Polarization. If he waits long enough out there, then jumps in, he won’t be polarized on the inside, and can either cloak and slip away, or jump back through if that doesn’t work.”

“Huh,” Bre murmurs. “That’s… really smart.”

“It’s like they’ve done this before,” I deadpan.

We run a couple more jumps, and get close to closing both the C2 and low-sec holes.

“Okay, Tweed, get on back in here and get probes out, so you can find the next sets of holes.”

“Copy that.”

Tweed jumps, and is followed only a few seconds later by the Loki pilot, who is easily able to cloak and warp away.

“Man…” I mutter, “if we could close these faster, we might be able to get it killed before he was done waiting out the polarization timer.”

We crash low-sec #2 the rest of the way, and crash the class two connection a few minutes later, which lets Tweed know at a glance which new signature is the low-sec and which is the new class 2 connection. Once we have them, we put a scout on the C2 to watch for any enemy activity, and started crashing the Low-sec. Just as we land on the Low-sec hole, Tweed (who is already out in Low-sec after giving us a much closer warp-in point) reports that the same loki pilot had jumped out into the low to provide a route for his allies — he didn’t seem to have interest in the class two connection.

“Makes sense,” says Shan. “In the c2, he’d have to scan the way out to actual known space — no way he could do that and get them here before we closed the hole behind him.”

This time we bring in two more battleships, and start moving them through the hole in earnest, trying to get the hole down before the Loki is ready to come back in, but all these added ships has complicated our math, and we’re left with a critically unstable wormhole that is, unfortunately, not dead. This is problem for us, because while the unstable hole probably won’t be able to handle more than a single battleship going through in one direction, it may still have more than enough strength left to admit not only the Loki pilot, but all of his friends.

“I’ll go get the Onyx,” Em says, and warps off to swap into a Heavy Interdictor. As I’ve said, wormholers have figured out lots of ways to manipulate the mass limitations on a wormhole, and one of them involves using a cruiser-sized Heavy Interdictor. If you set up the ship with an otherwise-useless fitting, it’s possible to activate a number of Warp Disruptor bubble generators on the ship, reducing the ship’s mass to almost nothing. Then, on the far side, you shut off the warp bubble generators, activate some oversized ship modules, and come back through the hole almost as massive as a battleship. This “go out tiny, come back huge” trick is one of the ways to finish killing off difficult wormholes like the one we’re currently dealing with.

Em gets back to the wormhole, we recall Tweed, and Em activates his “make me seem tiny” modules, jumps through, then buffs up his mass and jumps back.

The wormhole doesn’t die. Great. Now we have to wait out the polarization. Time is wasting, and with every second, we’re sure the loki pilot is going to come back in — he’s had time to.

“Maybe his friends are getting close, and he’s waiting on the outside to give them a fleet member to warp to.”

“That… does not make me feel better.”

Em keeps trying to jump through the wormhole, while cloaked (which doesn’t work), to get an idea of how long he has to go before he can jump, and as soon as the polarization messages go away, he uncloaks and starts turning on his ‘make me small’ modules aga–

His ship jumps.

“What just happened?”

“I… dammit. I jumped. It… jumped me through as soon as I decloaked. I didn’t have any of the warp disruptors running.”

“Well, at least the hole didn’t –”

The hole collapses.

“Crap.”

“Okay… well, shit. Okay. I’m going to warp down to the local station.” There’s a pause. “Oh, that loki pilot is grumpy that I warped off instead of fighting him.”

“Mmm. We’ll send him a card. How far into Low-sec are you?”

“Eight jumps? I’m not going to fly this thing out right now, that’s for sure. I’ll clone-jump to a market and buy a different ship.”

“Okay.” I think things over. “Tweed –”

“Already scanning.”

“Awesome. That’s our third pilot out. Maybe we’ve run out of bad guys.”

“Well…” murmurs Shan “unless Tweed just launched fourteen scanner probes, we haven’t.”

“Dammit. Okay, everyone back to the towers, we need to speed this crashing process up.” Things went smoother on the second hole, but the snags and hiccups still slowed us down and cost us a pilot. “Let’s get some Orcas in play.”

“You sure?”

“Nope, but I’m going to try it anyway.”

Tweed gets us a warp-in, and both Berke and Si warp down to the hole in the lumbering beasts of industrial burden.

This time, we have a new Loki pilot, who apparently hasn’t been keeping up on current events, because he turns at the wormhole, targeting and shooting at Berke’s Orca as soon as the big ship lands, apparently thinking it has no support. Other, pointier ships start landing on the hole, however, and he jumps through the wormhole to low-sec, followed by the big ships, who lurk while cloaked just long enough to jump back, then do so and retreat to their towers to wait out the polarization timer.

“You have your ship built yet, Em?”

“Yeah. Where’s the new connection?”

Tweed tells him, and Em groans. “Nineteen jumps away. Damn.”

“At least they have to do the jumps too.”

“Yep. On my way.”

As he jumps, Em catches us up on some of the research he’s been doing while waiting out in known space. It looks like the first two pilots who left the system participated in a couple kills somewhere else in New Eden this evening, as part of a large group of ships.

“They… they snuck out to do a Fleet Op?”

“It looks like it. I guess they figured we’d stay quiet, like we had been all week.”

“So I guess that worked.”

“Yyyyup.”

The second set of jumps is done with only a single battleship paired with Berke’s Orca. In this case, both ships jump out, but only the battleship jumps back. Berke cloaks up his Orca and waits, ready to follow Em back in and kill the hole once he’s home.

Minutes tick by, Berke can see the the Loki pilot in the low-sec local comms channel, but that’s —

“Tweed, get back in the hole. We have company.”

“Roger.”

“Em, those other pilots just showed up in local. They’re here. I have to –”

“Close it,” Em says. “Close it. Don’t worry about me.”

Berke, human drawbridge, jumps through the wormhole, which crashes behind him, leaving the returning pilots with no entrance and stranding a fourth pilot outside.

“Scanning for the next hole.”

“Reshipping into the Orca.”

“D-scan is clear — no probes besides Tweed’s are out yet.”

I say nothing, because I don’t need to. The first few times, there were questions, missteps, and corrections to be made, but everyone knows their jobs now, and despite the long hours, we’re getting faster instead of slower.

“Enemy probes on scan.”

“Copy that. I have them too. And a loki. MAN they like lokis.” A pause. “It took this guy a lot longer to get scanner probes out.”

“Maybe he’s the bad scanner in the bunch.”

“Sure,” I say. “Because lucky things happen to us, and because they have any bad pilots.”

“Good point.”

Still, it really does seem as though this pilot is moving a lot slower than his brethren, and we are able to get to the hole well before him, get Tweed out to known space to give Em a destination, and start weakening the hole with the same Orca-pair, battleship-pair as before.

While the first polarization timer counts down, the loki lands and jumps through.

“I wonder if we’re ever going to run out of these guys.”

“Eventually, we have to, there’s only 35 thousand pilots logged in right now. They can’t all be in here.”

“Oh, sure, jinx us.”

Again, we weaken the hole and leave Berke cloaked up and floating outside, ready to crash it.

“Guys, I just…” Em pauses. “I just PASSED them, heading your way.”

“How far out are you?”

“Eight jumps,” he answers. “This is going to be close.

It is, though Em is able to get a two-jump lead on them thanks to the smaller, faster ship he picked out for the run home. He arrives in system, warps to the hole, and jumps through, quickly followed by Berke’s Orca.

And the hole doesn’t close.

Life in a Wormhole: Three-way, and not the Fun Kind #eveonline

Apparently it’s been a long while since Bre lost a clone — the last time was apparently (and predictably) when she lived out in the Curse region, as she wakes up in a medical clone in Sendaya, Derelik region, next door to Curse.

Unfortunately, while it’s close to Curse, it’s nowhere near anything… useful, so Bre jumps back in the clone goo and transmits her consciousness to an updated and wired clone located in Sinq Laison and fairly near a market.

[[Incidentally, for those of you who enjoy the story potential that lies behind clone-jumping and FTL travel accomplished by transmitting your consciousness from body to body, I cannot recommend Altered Carbon enough. Great book. Also, given it’s date of publication, I think it’s quite likely it influenced the clone jump mechanics in EvE. Definitely worth a read.]]

Bre flies her naked pod over to Dodixie, picks up and fits out a Scorpion battleship, and as a good Gallente girl, gives it a French name that means “everyone hush up now”, which should leave the ship’s Caldari designers spinning in their graves. Once all the important stuff is taken care of, she heads back for toward our low-sec entrance, since the high-sec entrance through the hostile Class Two system is clearly not safe. I meet her at the edge of low-sec space and shepherd the big ship through the last few jumps home.

“You know,” says Bre, “if we’re planning on rolling the wormholes tonight, I could get started on this low-sec exit right now. I mean, this thing is certainly big enough.”

What Bre’s referring to is the fact that wormhole connections are inherently unstable in a number of different ways. First, wormholes don’t typically last for very long: once they’ve been activated (simply by flying onto the same ‘grid’ as one), they’ll die of old age about sixteen to twenty-four hours later. Second, each wormhole has a mass limit, both in terms of how much mass can jump through the hole at once, and how much mass can go through the hole in total before it collapses from the strain.

The single-jump mass limits vary, depending on the type of wormhole system they connect to. All wormholes leading into a Class 1 system, for example, have a very severe mass limit: basically nothing bigger than a battlecruiser can jump through the hole, which prevents easy access by anything larger (as they have to be built directly inside the hole). Class 2, 3, and 4 wormholes have a more forgiving limit, and can take ships as large as the Orca industrial command ship of which Berke is so fond, and easily handles even the largest battleship. Class 5 and Class 6 wormholes are truly monstrous, and are able to handle even Capitol-class ships like carriers and dreadnoughts (though not many).

The limit on the total amount of mass that can go through the hole varies as well, with Class 1s able to handle something like 35 one-way battlecruiser jumps, Class 2 to 4 able to withstand the one-way passage of 14 or 15 battleships (or 7 Orcas), and Class 5s and 6s… well you get the point.

Wormhole inhabitants have, of course, figured out how to manipulate this, and will purposely destabilize or destroy a wormhole via a series of controlled jumps, using ships with easily-manipulated masses to precisely control the amount of mass that’s gone through the hole. The goal is to destroy the hole with all friendly ships on the ‘inside’, then scan down the new exit, which is located somewhere else in the system and which connects to some other similar location in known- or wormhole-space; if we destroy our “static” low-sec connection, for example, the physics of wormholes will immediately replace it with a new one, also connecting somewhere out to low-security space.

This process is know as “rolling” or “crashing” the hole, and we expect to be doing a lot of it over the next few days. With the weekend looming, the chance that the enemy cruisers in our system will try to get a full-sized fleet into our system increases. We have planned for this, and intend to aggressively crash our wormhole connections whenever the enemy pilots are online, which keeps any invading fleet running around New Eden, trying to get to the new doorway before it vanishes. When the enemy pilots are offline, we’ll keep the connection critically unstable but NOT destroyed, so that a single jump will crash it, which should leave it useless for invasion.

In case of Emergency, Break Wormhole.

What Bre is suggesting is that she get started on weakening the low-sec connection now, while the enemy pilots are offline, so that once all our pilots are ready, the connection can easily be reset and the constant rolling process can begin sooner rather than later.

“Sounds good,” replies Em. “Anyone watching the hole?”

“I have eyes on,” I say.

“And I stuck a cloak on this thing just for this purpose,” Bre adds, “so it should be no problem to just cloak up between jumps, while I wait for the polarization effect to fade.”

(Bre’s being so good about remembering the polarization effect, now that she’s been reminded of their consequences.)

Bre starts collapsing the hole, but no sooner has she completed her first “in and out” jump then Em is back on comms. “I have a Nemesis on scan. Anyone got him?”

“Yeah,” I say, as the Nemesis lands on the low-sec wormhole connection. “Huh. Bre, it’s that same nemesis from the group that mugged you earlier.”

“They’re came through to our hole?” Bre asks. “Lovely. They must want to blow me up again.”

I watch the wormhole flare and the Nemesis stealth bomber vanishes. “He’s coming out to say hi.”

“I’m cloaked, he’s going to feel kind of lonely. Can I kill him?”

“The trick would be locking him before he just runs off,” I start to say, then a Tengu strategic cruiser uncloaks next to the hole as well. “The other trick would be that he has a friend sitting over here in a Tengu.”

“A tengu? You sure it’s not our stalkers? I didn’t get attacked by a tengu.”

“He must have logged in later, because it’s the same corp.”

“Great.”

Just then, one of the ‘enemy’ tengu pilots that we’ve seen in our system also logs in, and a few seconds later…

“I’ve got probes on scan,” Em says. “Looks like he’s checking to see if anything’s changed in here. Are we all cloaked up?”

We confirm with each other that our home system looks positively deserted, and a few minutes later the probes have been withdrawn and the ‘stalker’ tengu pilot logs back out.

Meanwhile, although the Nemesis bomber is still around, Bre is easily able to decloak and warp down to one of the stations in the low-sec system to dock up.

“I’m going to log off,” she says. “They didn’t do anything in our hole until I logged back in and brought the Scorpion back to the system, so maybe if I log, they’ll take off. We can finish up this hole when everyone else is on.”

“Sounds fine. Give it a shot.”

She does. A few minutes later, I watch as the ‘neighbor’ tengu warps off, followed by the Nemesis jumping back to our system and then warping off to the connection to their class two system.

“Looks like they’re watching Bre,” I say to Em. “That’s not going to complicate things at all.”

“Oh I’m sure it won’t,” Em deadpans. “See you in a few.”


Several hours have passed, and I’m logging back in to see if we’re ready to move. The answer is “yes”, and not only are we ready to move, apparently so are some of the pilots lurking in our system.

“That tengu pilot and a pilgrim just jumped out of our system, into low-sec, and took off,” Em says.

I blink. “They… left?”

“At least for a little while. That’s not all of them, but…”

“Yeah, let’s crash that damn hole. Now.”

The call goes out and pilots assemble, with as many pilots as we can manage reshipping into battleships specifically built to help crash wormholes, or into ships designed to support and defend them. The last pilot to join the fleet is Bre, since she’s trying to delay her arrival and prevent interference from our neighbors. Three battleships land on the wormhole and jump, joined by Bre’s Scorpion on the far side.

“The Nemesis and Tengu just jumped through from the C2.” Shan is on and playing lookout on all our incoming wormholes. “They’re in warp to you.”

“All battleships jump,” I say. “As soon as you load, warp back to the tower.”

“Loki on scan,” Em adds. “That’s not the neighbors, that’s one of the other guys.”

I check d-scan. “I don’t see him from the hole.” I refresh the scan. “No, wait. There he is. He’s warping here.”

“Copy that.”

Four battleships jump back into the wormhole as the Nemesis bomber and Tengu from the neighboring system land. A few seconds later, the Loki — a member of the corp playing Occupy Wall Street with our wormhole — lands as well.

“Heh. I bet he wasn’t expecting to see some of these ships.”

“To be fair, neither were we.”

“The tengu is targeting me,” says one of the battleship pilots. “Are we fighting?”

“Are you fit for fighting?” I ask.

“No.” A second’s pause. “Then…”

“Right. Warp to the towers.”

“Copy that.”

The lumbering Dominix, Typhoons, and Scorpion warp away, followed by a disappointed shout from the tengu pilot, speaking in the system’s local channel.

“Aww… he’s bummed the Dominix had warp core stabilizers on.”

“How very sad for him. What’s the Loki doing?”

“He turned right around and warped off.”

“Figures. Is the hole dead?”

“It…” there’s a long pause. “It is. Yeah. Hole’s dead.”

“Good job, everyone. Tweed, can you scan down the new low-sec exit?”

“Already on it.”

“Awesome.”

“So…” says one of the battleship pilots. “What do we do now?”

I check the clock. At a rough estimate, we’ve got six more hours before our enemy Occupy pilots will give up for the night. Until then, we need to keep the wormhole exits unusable.

“Now,” I say, “it’s a race.”

Life in a Wormhole: Too Speedy for Your Own Good #eveonline

We’ve seen no sign of the enemy cruisers lurking in our system during the entire tengu/noctis mugging, which Bre takes as a good sign that now would be an ideal time to get a little more defensive prep done. Specifically, we’re thinking about that worst-case “what if a massive fleet shows up to attack a tower and some counter-fleet must be mustered?” Bre’s come to the conclusion that in such situations her options are a bit limited, mostly because of the choices she’s made with her training plans up to this point.

Specifically, she’s deeply specialized in frigate-sized ships, and can competently fly all of the tech 1 and tech 2 frigate hulls in New Eden, up to and including proper tech 2 tanking, weaponry, and module options for each race’s ships. Basically, if it’s small, she can fly it pretty well.

However, beyond the realm of frigates, her experience becomes more than a little thready. She’s got a bit of training in cruisers, and a bit more in battlecruisers (so she can field a ubiquitous Drake to help with Sleeper shooting), but when it comes time for a fleet vs. fleet brawl, especially one where a Drake isn’t recommended, her list of options (like her preferred ships) is small.

But one of our Alliance mates has suggested that we might be well-served by having an armor-plated Scorpion-class battleship around to support larger fleets that may or may not need to form, and the idea appeals to Bre; the Scorpion isn’t much of a heavy-hitter, but its strengths complement hers well. Her missile support skills are solid, and her Electronics Countermeasures skills (thanks to the time she’s spent in a Kitsune frigate) are quite solid.

Also, it’s a pretty cool looking ship.

She’s been quietly training to fly the actual ship for a few days now, and it seems like a good time to go get it. The exit from our system into low-sec isn’t horribly located, but Bre’s looking for something a little more convenient, and quickly scans the exit to our Class 2 wormhole in the hopes that it might have a nice, friendly high-sec exit. She’s lucky, and it does; the fat and happy connection is one of the easiest signatures in the new system to locate and resolve, and in under five minutes she’s sitting twenty kilometers off the wormhole, cloaked up in her Buzzard covert-ops ship, watching a lone Harbinger battlecruiser sitting on the exit.

The harbinger seems like a common wormhole daytripper, based on his combat history, and Bre imagines he’s just popped his head in to look around. There’s a well-defended tower within range of the wormhole, however (a tower Bre’s in too much of a hurry to go check out right now), and it looks like the Harby doesn’t want to risk his ship under the noses of the inhabitants — he jumps through the wormhole and out to known space while Bre watches, which is all the encouragement she needs to creep down to the hole and jump through herself.

Once out in high-sec, she doesn’t warp off, because her goal is to go out and retrieve a new ship; to do that, she needs to leave the Buzzard behind at our tower and race out to a market in her naked pod — the only reason she’s come this far out is to get a bookmark for the far side of the wormhole so that it’s easier to bring the Scorpion back later.

Oddly, there’s no sign of the Harbinger, either immediately adjacent to the wormhole or even in the local comms channel for the system. That’s a bit odd, but Bre’s in a rush and doesn’t give it any further thought. As soon as she can, she bookmarks the exit and jumps back through the wormhole to head back to the tower to prep for a streaking run to market.

The locals have other ideas.

Bre arrives back in the wormhole system to find herself within the warp disruption field of a Devoter Heavy Interdictor who, along with a Talos battlecruiser and Nemesis stealth bomber, are waiting for her return alongside that very same Harbinger she’d spotted earlier — obviously not a daytripper, but a new member of the corporation that calls this system home. It appears that the ship jumped back into the wormhole system at the same moment Bre was jumping out.

It’s a fairly fearsome foursome arrayed against her, but even caught inside a warp disruption field and surrounded by a double handful of angry little drones waiting for her to shed her session change cloak, it’s not a problem; she can just jump back out into —

Oh. Well, crap. Bre was in such a rush that she jumped back and forth through the wormhole very quickly, polarizing her secondary coils in a way the prevents her from reentering the wormhole for at least four minutes, which in this situation might as well be four years.

Still, it’s not the end of the world. It’s incredibly hard to target a cloak-capable ship in the split second between when it sheds its session-change cloak and activates its covert-ops cloaking module. Bre won’t be able to warp away, but with the cloak active she still has a very good chance of being able to weave her way out of the range of the warp disruption field and slip away. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s pretty much the only choice she has at this point, so she makes her move.

First, the decloak, with her ship clearly and obviously setting course toward the center of the system, then activate the cloak, make an abrupt course change, and hope that she can get clear while the enemy ships swarm over her presumed loca–

Why didn’t she cloak?

Fate (and her own hurry), has decreed the Bre’s not getting away today: although a burst of speed from the microwarpdrive got her moving quickly, she came through the wormhole FAR too close to the anomaly itself — it’s so close to her that proximity prevents her from cloaking her ship once she starts moving. It’s only an extra second between that and the point at which she can cloak up, but a second is all it takes — the larger ships (and — far more deadly to her small ship — the angry combat drones) shred the frail scout frigate in flash, leaving her in her escape pod and still almost a dozen kilometers from the edge of the warp disruption bubble. Her pod crumples more quickly than the Buzzard, and a few seconds later Bre wakes up in a clone vat out in known space.

“Son of a…”

“What? What just happened?”

“Well… the good news is, I’m going to be able to put together that Scorpion RIGHT away.”

Life in a Wormhole: Speedy #eveonline

“There’s a tengu in-system,” says Em. This seems like old news to me, except he’s not talking about the tengu belonging to our stealthy stalkers.

The last few days have been very quiet. Knowing the basic activity cycle of the guys in the system (and having them on our watchlists) has led to our pilots confining most of their activity to times when enemy pilots are offline, and staying in cloak-equipped ships.

Apparently, our open low-sec connection and the fact that our system has accumulated some Sleeper anomalies in the last few quiet days has lured in a pilot looking to do a little daytripping in our hole. I’m not online yet, but I’m on the way, and in the meantime Em is keeping an eye on the tengu pilot in his cloaked up recon cruiser.

The pilot is moving pretty quickly, and by the time I’m able to get online and into Twilight Sparkle, he’s wrapped up the killing portion of his quick visit, leaving three anomalies worth of shattered sleeper wrecks in his wake. Luckily Em has bookmarks on all those wreck clusters, and gives me a warp-in to the first site, but the tengu-turned-noctis pilot is working so quickly that by the time I get the warp in, find a good wreck to bookmark that’s within the right range, he’s already done and moving to site two.

“DAMN he moves fast,” Em comments, and warps to the next site. I follow, and this time I’ve landed at a good range to get down on top of him immediately. I don’t hesitate, initiating warp in and uncloaking as I do to soak up most of the calibration delay that almost any ship suffers when it decloaks. For a wonder, the attack actually goes to plan — I get a lock, immediately scramble the Noctis’ warp engines, and start unloading Twilight Sparkle’s Neutron Blasters.

Once again, the pilot reacts surprisingly quickly — he’s not going to get his ship away, knows it, and ejects his pod and warps away after little more than two volleys. I fumble at the controls and manage to stop firing before I destroy the ship, leaving the salvager only half-way through its armor.

“Wanna kill it anyway?”

“I kind of like getting a free ship,” I reply, and warp back to our tower to store the Proteus and come back for the Noctis. I have one of these ships out in known space, but not in the wormhole, and I realize I’ve really missed flying one — I love how they look.

It's not pretty, but it is kind of lovely.

“I’m going to finish up these other two sites.”

“Seriously?”

“Eh, might as well, the other guys we’ve seen aren’t online, and if there are more of them, this is a hell of a ship to lure them out.”

“True.”

I start cleaning up the site, and I find myself very impressed with the fitting. It wasn’t just the pilot moving fast — this Noctis itself is remarkably fast, and I tear through the wrecks in short order, pulling in salvage worth almost as much as the fifty-five million isk ship, which isn’t too bad for three sites we didn’t even have to shoot (not counting the three volleys worth of blaster ammunition it took to scare the pilot away).

A short engagement, but it’s getting within an hour or so of enemy activity, so I warp back to the tower and store the SS Generous Donation in our hangar.

Life in a Wormhole: The Talk #eveonline

This post doesn’t have any spaceship explosions going on — it’s something I’ve debated writing up, because it’s nothing but the drama that comes from not vetting a new member of your corporation well enough before bringing them into a wormhole. I don’t like drama, I don’t like these kinds of talks, and I especially don’t like reliving the whole thing while I write it all down.

But I think it’s important to see, and maybe something that can act as a cautionary tale both for the potential recruiter and for the would-be wormhole pilot about to embark on a grand new adventure. Caveat nauta, or something like that.

Cabbage had conveniently logged in the night before, while I and Em were tweaking our towers and planning for worst-case scenarios, and we took the opportunity to get him on voice comms and talk through “The Dolby Problem.” The conversation went well, even if it’s a little uncomfortable telling someone else how to keep their own house — Em and I were both pretty adamant that the guy needed to go, but Cabbage agreed with all our reasons.

In the end, though, it didn’t look like it was going to go exactly to plan; Em logged out a bit before I did, so I was the only other person on when Cabbage said that he had “sent Dolby an email telling him what he needed to change and that he needed to shape up immediately.”

I wasn’t thrilled.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like confrontation any more than the next guy, but to be perfectly honest there’s a point at which a guy forfeits his second chance. Still, it is Cabbage’s house to keep, and I knew he would own the problem, regardless of how his decision played out.

Anyway, it was late, so I let be and signed off for the night.

The next day, Dolby is online and silent, lurking in Cabbage’s tower shields. I have plenty of other things to deal with, however, so I simply continued with shoring up defenses and moving expensive, non-essential items to the fasting at Helm’s Deep known-space, getting some awesome help from Berke, who stows his Orca and jumps into his stealthy Crane-class transport. I watch him warp out on his way through a convoluted series of jumps that will bring him to high security space through abandoned or nearly-abandoned wormhole systems, when Dolby asks to speak with me on voice comms.

“This probably isn’t going to go the way he’s expecting,” I mutter to Em as I flip over to Dolby’s channel.

“What’s up?”

“I have this email here from Cabbage, man, and it’s got me pretty wound up,” he begins. “I mean, it’s full of all this stuff to do and to not do, and how all of it is non-negotiable — I tell you what, I left sov-held null-sec space cuz I got sick of people telling you what to do and when to do it and controlling every aspect of the game.”

I nod, because Dolby’s filled me (and everyone else who will listen) in on the horrors of the null-sec alliance he was in, where those in authority would do stuff like issue a call-to-arms and force members to participate by temporarily changing the tax-rate to 100% to make any other activity BUT the CTA a complete waste of time. It sounded pretty bad, but my pity was leavened by the fact that he had been there because he chose to be… and because I no longer believed anything he said that I could not directly verify.

Mostly that second thing.

“Before we go any further into this conversation,” I say. “I think you need to understand that I know about Cabbage’s email. I disagree with it, but only because I don’t think it goes far enough. I asked Cabbage to get you out of the system, permanently, and he decided to give you another chance. So, I’m willing to listen to what you have to say, but I want you to know that if you’re looking for an ally in a bitch-session, you and I are currently standing on opposite sides of a fence.”

There is a long silence. “Okay.”

“As for comparing the basic safety requirements of living in a wormhole to the mandatory call-to-arms and strangling tax rates of a null-sec alliance, I think you’re being ridiculous and over-dramatic. Cabbage is explaining that you live in a new neighborhood now, and you need to know how to cross the street safely, and your response so far has been to play in the middle of that street and compare his rules to some abusive relationship you just got out of. It doesn’t fly.”

“I’ve been careful.”

“You have lost, on average, one ship for every single day you’ve been a member of Cabbage’s corporation,” I reply. “Plus two or three pods, which shouldn’t even be possible in the systems where you lost them. That’s not an argument in your favor.”

“I know how to live in wormholes,” he persists. “I lived in here with Cabbage back when he first moved in. Hell, I found the wormhole for him and introduced him to the head of this Alliance in the first place!”

I nod, and don’t bother telling him that the head of the Alliance summed up his history with Dolby to me by saying ‘He was a moron then, and he’s a moron now’ — it won’t help. “It’s a bit easier to find a wormhole, or visit them for a few hours with a null-sec gang, than it is to live in it day in and day out. I think you can concede that.”

“Sure, but I’m being careful,” he insists. “When I’m mining in the system, I’m hitting d-scan every couple seconds.”

I look over the webpage detailing the loss of his mining barge a few days ago. “You were mining in our system, which means the Isolated Core field?”

“Yeah.”

“The one that has the electrical field that does damage to every ship on the grid, every minute or so?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah. See, that tells me that it’s impossible for a cloaked ship to have crept up on you, because the damage would decloak them. That means he warped into the site and in on top of you, which means he had to use probes to find you. You didn’t see them, so I don’t think you were hitting d-scan every few –”

“I saw them,” he interrupts, and as interruptions go, it’s a pretty good one — I’m left silent for a good ten seconds.

“I’m sorry, you saw the probes?”

“Yeah. I saw probes. I didn’t figure anyone could find me that fast.”

“If you see probes,” I say, “you should already be warping out. I know from personal experience: if you see probes, he’s already in warp to you.”

“I don’t see how I could have done it differently.”

“Mine with other people,” I reply. “Get someone on overwatch. Don’t mine when the entrance out to known space is open. Maybe don’t go out and salvage wrecks a few hours later and lose a second ship in the same day, to a guy in the same corporation.”

“That was just a coincidence.”

This guy has a talent for leaving me speechless. I actually get up and go get a soda at this point, because I’m not going to say anything constructive in the next minute or two anyway.

“There really isn’t such a thing as a coincidence in a wormhole,” I say when I sit back down. “I understand you’ve spent a lot of time in null-sec, with hostile neighbors maybe four or five jumps away, so the possibility of two completely unrelated guys from the same corp jumping you, six hours apart — that’s a thing that seems completely believable as a coincidence. It doesn’t work that way out here. Ever.”

“But the guy that got my Noctis must have just found me,” Dolby protests, “because I was shooting sleepers with two Drakes before that for at least an hour and he didn’t do anything.”

“Nooo…” I keep my voice level. “He was in a cloaky tengu. He saw what you were doing, knew you’d need a salvager, so we waited for you to go get it, and then blew it up.”

“Are you trying to tell me…” The tone in Dolby’s voice tells me that he thinks I am completely crazy… “that some guy sat there, watching my two Drakes for an hour, and didn’t do anything to them, but waited to attack my salvaging ship? Why would he do that?”

The facepalm is strong with this one.

“Why would…” I stare at the ceiling. “Because that’s what people do in a wormhole. They lie in wait, cloaked, and mug soft targets.”

Who does that?” he scoffs. “No one I know.”

Everyone you know,” I counter. “There isn’t a pilot in here that doesn’t have a cloaky ship they can use to go hunting from wormhole to wormhole in the hopes of finding a soft target — *I* have at least six that have no other purpose. Out here, that is what you do when there’s nothing else to do. It’s the main pastime. It’s like…” I wave my hands around as if the right word can be snatched out of the air. “It’s like whittling.”

“Listen,” I say, cutting off yet another protest. “The stuff we’re going over here, this is all very very basic stuff. This is the reality of wormholes. Someone is always watching you. Someone is always lining up a shot or waiting for you to make a stupid mistake, and you have to consciously and constantly work to deny them that chance, or know exactly why you’re taking that risk.” I take a drink of my soda, and the comms are silent. “This isn’t something you need to learn — it isn’t something you need to get used to — this is something that needs to sound like fun, or you will never last out here. You will, in fact, continue to lose a ship every single day you log in. Period.”

Dolby says nothing. Five minutes later, he logs off the comms.

Life in a Wormhole: Late Night Jam Session #eveonline

It’s getting late, and the end of my evening isn’t in sight. We’ve got hostiles in the system who, at a conservative estimate, have been lurking out in the bushes for at least two or three days, and we don’t know nearly enough about them.

Em needs to get back into the hole, but for that he needs a destination, and I’m the only pilot available to get it to him. Time to review my options.

On the one hand, there’s my Proteus, which is reasonably tough and cloaky, and (especially in the sudden absence of my Cheetah) a go-to ship when I need to jump through a strange wormhole. The main problems with it are two-fold:

  1. It relies on stealth for a lot of its ability to get around unmolested, and if I make the worst-case assumption, the tower I’m sitting in and both the exits from the system are being watched, so any element of surprise the strategic cruiser might give me will be lost as soon as I board it.
  2. It’s slow as hell, which makes it more difficult for me to slip out of a situation that turns hairy. The ship is meant to mug someone at point-blank range, and the odds of that happening at this point are slim to none.

Another consideration that isn’t quite as pivotal is the simple fact that the Proteus is probably the most expensive ship in my hangar, and designed to be put at risk in PvP when the situation is in my favor and I know more about the battlefield than my opponent. To say that isn’t the case here would be a laughable understatement, so picking that ship for this job is a bad bet. Also, the one pilot I know for certain is in the hole (the tengu) is also in a cloaky tech 3 cruiser, and matching like against like feels like a bad idea to me, especially if he’s fit for speed and any kind of range at all.

Not that I’m adverse to putting a pricey ship at risk; the tengu probably went after my Cheetah because it was sitting there for so long, stupidly uncloaked, that it’s destruction became a moral imperative. I actually want to get a better idea of the situation here, so a juicy target is a good idea — something the tengu would want to take a shot at that (a) can deal with the thing on more equitable terms and (b) has a better chance of getting out if things spiral downward.

I jump into the Cynabal. Apparently, Cabbage is right: I’m a more likely to risk a ship I didn’t buy. Aside from that, it feels like a better option. For one thing, I’m a better Cynabal pilot than Proteus in a couple of highly-relevant ways, and aside from that, the flying salamander of doom gives me exactly what I want: speed, the ability to get out a bad scene, and (depending on the relative skills of the pilots in question) a reasonable chance at a good fight with a cloaky-fit strategic cruiser if it turns out he’s alone. (Cloaky tech 3s sacrifice DPS and sometimes a fair amount of tank, compared to pure-combat configurations that could very likely eat a typical Cynabal for lunch. This puts things — theoretically — on more favorable ground, which is all I want.)

At least, that’s how I reconstruct it later. At the time, I think my whole thought process was “fast, pretty tough, and good damage: Cynabal.” Once in the ship, I line up on the exit to lowsec and enter warp.

My goals, in order of importance:

  1. Get Em a route home.
  2. See if I can look tasty enough for the Tengu to take a shot at me, despite the fact that most solo cloaky t3s restrict themselves to a diet of softer targets.
  3. See if anyone else jumps out of the woodwork, and take stock of how bad the situation is.

I land on top of the wormhole and immediately jump into low-sec, then tell Em the system I’m in over voice comms, pronouncing the odd name as well as I can.

“Ugh. Can you type that into the channel?”

Behind me, I hear the distinctive sound of a ship jumping through the wormhole. “In a second. Things just got interesting here.”

I’m still covered in the temporary cloak afforded any ship that jumps through a wormhole into a new system, as is my stalker, and while there’s really no difference between fighting someone on the low-sec side of the hole, my preference is to get back on the ‘home’ side before I think about combat. There’s still too many variables left unanswered, and I can’t see what reinforcements might be on the way if I’m outside the home system and start a tussle. I jump.

Reinforcements? Oh yeah. Two lokis have landed (or simply uncloaked) on the hole since I jumped through to low-sec space, and while a cloaky tengu (who just jumped through after me, again) seems like a good fight, three on one starting at ground zero are odds I like a lot less.

The problem, of course, is that I need to get out, which means getting into warp before any of the three ships get a lock and tackle on me. Jumping back through the wormhole isn’t an option for another four minutes, thanks to “secondary warp coil polarization” (a feature that, ten seconds ago, I was counting on to keep the tengu from easily jumping away from me — ironic, that). My only real choice is to hit warp and hope for the best.

In a movie, this is the point in the story when the guy in the car realizes that his vehicle’s been secretly fit with a big red button labeled “nitro boost”.

Seriously, do you guys have any idea how fast a Cynabal can get into warp?

I’ll give you a hint: faster than three t3 cruisers can lock it. I have yet to find any similarly-fit ship in its class that can come anywhere near it, and I’ll be honest: I had no idea.

Once back in the tower, I get Em the name of the system, and he heads out in a covert-ops ship. The trip is a fairly long one, and we have time to do some research.

Going back to the kill boards (now that I’m safe inside tower shields and not floating out in open space), I’m able to find a number of situations where the tengu pilot I spotted was involved in kills with two other pilots, both flying Lokis, and from that I’m able to get a pretty good idea who’s in the system with us. (No, I didn’t take the time to write down their names when I was on the wormhole — I was busy. I also forgot to take a screenshot I could look at later. :P)

Em has been digging as well, and his research goes a bit further.

“They’re US timezones,” he tells me, “and they’ve probably all got jobs. Almost all their kills are from 0000 to 0700, GMT. They fly a LOT of tech 3 cruisers, and do a lot of stuff in small gangs.”

“So…” I squint at the math. “Sure. Log on after work, an hour to find something to shoot on the good nights — longer on the bad ones.” I glance at the clock. “Hopefully that means they’re logging out soon.”

“We’ll see,” Em replies. “You add them to your watchlist?”

I have, and watch the screen for any notification that my watchlisted pilots have disconnected.

Five minutes before Em gets home, they log out for the night.

“Welcome back,” I mutter to Em as he drops out of warp in his own tower.

“Thanks.” He sighs. “So, what are we thinking?”

“Option One,” I say, “they’re killing time for the weekend, and they bring in a whole fleet of ships and siege one of our towers, since that’s what the alliance did over in that other system.”

“Sure.”

“Option Two is them doing what they’re already doing.”

“Yyyyup,” Em says, popping the final consonant.

I update our shared comm channel’s Message of the Day.

Hostiles in System, all in cloaked ships. Assume you are always being watched. Act accordingly. Inform Ty and Em of any ship sightings in system. More info when we have it.

“That’s about all we can do with Option Two, for now.” I turn to the tower controls and start offlining the small lab Gor and Bre have been using for low-grade research. “Off-lining and stowing all the non-essential modules and on-lining more of the pointy stuff.”

“Same.” The comms are silent for a long while as we work. It’s gotten faster to manipulate tower modules in many cases, but when it comes to defensive and offensive stuff, it’s still tedious and slow. “Which do you think it is?”

“I think…” I say, flipping on yet another module and watching the activation timer count down… “it’s going to be a really interesting weekend.”

“Yyyup.”

Our towers modified, warnings set, and ships cloaked, we finally log out, many hours later than normal.

This will not be our longest night.

Not even close.

Life in a Wormhole: A Lack of Communication #eveonline

Note: The events I’ll be covering in the next few blog posts are written from the point of view of the pilots involved, at the point in time when the events took place. As will become evident, there was a definite and profound “fog of war” in effect that left us making best guesses that sometimes turned out to be right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes… well, sometimes it was just a red herring just didn’t end up mattering that much.

Some folks might feel compelled to leave a “LOL I can’t believe you thought/did that” post, but the fact is when you’re in the middle of an event, you can’t easily look at all sides — you make your best guess, and you make a move — even a bad move is better than no move at all. Some of what we believed at the time turned out to be wrong or incomplete, but in most cases our actions (though they might have come from false assumptions) turned out to be the right moves at that time.

“Dude, we need to talk about Dolby,” Em says as he and Shan pull me into a private voice channel. “Did you hear about the thing yesterday?”

“Yesterday?” I frown. “He said he lost a couple ships. I guess he’s been using the high-sec and low-sec connections and going out and mining or something when no one else is on with him.”

“And since he never logs off…”

“Yeah.”

“So…” Shan’s voice is quieter, but I’ve found it’s worth shutting up and listening to him. “Apparently, after he lost his second ship yesterday, he ragequit, uninstalled EvE, and broke his keyboard.”

For once, I don't say anything right away.

“Then he took a nap,” Shan continues. “And when he woke back up, he got a new keyboard and started reinstalling EvE, so he could self-destruct all the ships he still had left.”

There is a long silence.

Have you ever actually felt like you were a rage comic?

I have.

“What…”

I try again.

“How did you…”

“He told us,” Em says, “on voice comms. I don’t know how much is BS, but –”

“Well, there’s only two possibilities,” I say. “One: he’s telling the truth, and he’s an incredibly unstable person. Or Two: he’s lying, and he’s a drama queen. Either way…”

“Either way, he needs to go,” Em finishes the thought for me. Wormholes are a lot of things, but what they aren’t is forgiving. Like fox holes, you need to be able to trust the guys next to you, and if you can’t, one or the other of you needs to go.

“Yup. Let’s talk to Cabbage.”

Cab isn’t on at this point, due to timezone differences, but Pax — a director in the same corp — is, and we get his take on things, which unsurprisingly meshes up pretty well with ours. Plus, he’s able to verify that none of Dolby’s ships are missing (aside from the ones he’d already lost), so we know at least some of his story is hogwash. The discussion goes on for a bit, eating up most of the time I’d expected to spend online that evening. I hate drama like this in any kind of MMO, and when it comes up, I tend to attack it with a flamethrower. As far as I’m concerned, a chunk of wasted time one day is better than hours and hours of wasted time spread out over months.

Pax logs out for the day, and Em and I continue the conversation, trying to backtrack through everything that happened, which allows us to put together a bigger picture of the “Dolby situation.” — a picture that keeps getting uglier.

“Apparently, he wasn’t just mining out in highsec,” I report to Em, after a brief email conversation with a corp mate. “He didn’t want to leave the ore in jettisoned canisters, so every time his cargohold was full, he would carry it back into the wormhole to leave at Cab’s tower, which –”

“Jesus.”

“Yeah. I know.” I check the time. “Are you in the system?”

“Jita,” he replies. “Trying to wrap up some market stuff from a few weeks ago. Need me to come back?”

“Nah.” I check things over from the vantage point of my cloaked scout ship, sitting at a safe spot in the system. “Everyone else is asleep, so I’m heading out. We can deal with this tomorrow. Let me know if you see Cabbage.”

“Will do.”

“Talk to you later.”

I’ve just closed down the game and the voice chat when another thought occurs to me.

Where did he lose those ships?

One of the (I believe) unique features of EvE as an MMO is that it captures any PvP-related kills and funnels them to the game’s API, which allows websites to pull that information and display it in easier-to-read formats. Certainly, there’s a quite a bit of violence in the game’s early history that predates this API, but for most pilots it means that every loss and victory they’ve ever experienced in PvP in EvE is saved and available for review. I pull up one of the most commonly used public “Killboards” and type in Dolby’s name, then flip to the “Losses” tab.

I reopen voice comms as soon as I start reading, and find Em still in the channel.

“Is it later already?”

“He lost the last two ships inside our system,” I say, still scrolling through the information and scouring the page. “Each one was a solo kill.”

“Same guy both times?”

“Nnnno.” I check time stamps. “Six hours apart, different pilots. Looks like they were both flying covert-fit tech 3 cruisers; a Tengu and then a Loki.” The icons next to the portraits of Dolby’s attackers catches my eye, and my stomach sinks. “They were both from the same corp, though.”

“That,” says Em. “Is not good. How…” I can almost hear him shake his head. “How does he not tell people stuff like that?”

Out of habit, I log back into EvE, although there’s nothing I’m currently doing that requires I be online; EvE’s metagame is rich and potentially dangerous, but doesn’t often require the participants be sitting in a ship. Once logged in, I basically ignore the game screen and turn my attention back to research.

“Maybe they’re just from yesterday’s neighboring wormhole.” While it isn’t a comfort to know that there were enemy pilots in the system, it’s a “typical” kind of danger, and one that 95 times out of a hundred will disappear when the connecting wormhole dies. If these pilots weren’t just opportunistic hunters from a neighboring system, however, things might be —

I frown at the killboard. “Why do I recognize that alliance name?”

“Whose?”

“The guys that killed Dolby. I recognize their alliance name.” I turn back to the game screen for a second, where my Cheetah covert ops floats in open space, and open my evemail to scan through recent messages. “Oh. Shit.”

“Who is it?”

“It’s…” I rub at my face, unconsciously leaving my hand in a perfect “facepalm” position. “It’s one of the alliances that was involved in that system assault last weekend.” I lean back in my chair. “The guys everyone was told to watch out for, because they’d be looking for one of our systems.”

“And they followed our drama queen miner back into –” Em cuts himself off. “Shit.”

“Yeah.” I flip through the killmails again, looking for more information.

“You think they’re still in the hole?” Em snorts. “What am I saying — of course they are.”

It’s like they could hear him.

Explosions burst from my system’s speakers.

My attention is — finally, and far too late — brought back to my game screen, where a Tengu strategic cruiser — the same one that attacked Dolby the day before — has just dropped out of warp directly on top of me and opened fire. For a moment, I’m simply too surprised to act, and my attempts to burn away from my larger, slower attacker are thwarted by his scrambler, which offlines the Cheetah’s microwarpdrive, giving him more than enough time to take apart the fragile covert ops ship. It’s over in seconds, and I’m able to warp clear in my escape pod and get back to the relative safety of our tower.

I’d been so distracted by the information in the killboard I forgot to activate my cloak when I logged back into the game, and have been floating, completely exposed, in open space. It was far too easy a target to pass up — I know I wouldn’t have. Such a stupid mistake.

“They’re still in here,” I tell Em, my voice curt as I update the Message of the Day in our systems comm channel with a warning and instructions for our pilots. “Looks like you’re going to have to come back after all.”

“Yep,” Em replies. “But I need the name of the system we’re connected to.”

I look out of the tower shields, and the stars all look like eyes, watching for my next move.

“Give me five minutes.”

Life in a Wormhole: Ship Swapping #eveonline

There’s some chatter in my Alliance evemail box when I log in; something about the system assault that happened over the weekend. At first blush, it sounds like they actually got a fight (which they were looking for), but a second read-through and a bit of research indicates that the eventual outcome didn’t exactly go their way. Something about the opposing group hiring a couple mercenary alliances to help with the system defense; there’s a bit of grumbling about this, but to be honest it sounds perfectly normal to me — it’s not as though we (I) wouldn’t do exactly the same thing in their position — who wouldn’t do whatever they could to defend their home?

In any case, there’s the standard cautions about maintaining operational security in the event the corporations involved go looking for a retributive strike, but as everyone in the alliance gets the mail, I leave it as that — I know our guys have probably already seen the message, and it’s not as though we advertise our wormhole entrance even on our worst day.

Meanwhile, we’re shuffling a few ships around in the system, as Bre informs me that CB grabbed the wrong hauler and actually took hers out to known space. Oops. CB brings that ship back in, and while he’s flying I talk him into picking up a Daredevil frigate, a terror of a ship for which he is well-skilled. It’s a bit of a tough sell, as the Daredevil is expensive and CB is generally frugal, but eventually he succumbs to the lure and splashes out for the new toy.

Meanwhile, I’ve been re-reading that post I wrote about giving up on my Ishtar, and it’s making me annoyed. I do a bit of work in EvE Fitting Tool, taking a hard look at the ship, and decide that dammit, I can (and want) to use it in wormholes, so I replace it, fit it, and get it ready for some sleeper blasting. The stats may be about the same as the Gila, but the Ishtar is a hell of a lot prettier, and anyone who thinks that doesn’t factor into my decision doesn’t know me.

I’m up very early today, and I use the time (and the completely dead low-sec systems to which we’re connected) to empty and close out our second unused corporate office in the high-sec island systems where CB and Gor used to do a bit of mining. Some of the gear is sold, some retained for use in the wormhole, and a few cruiser hull’s are donated to this year’s Griefergeddon.

On my way back, the rest of New Eden seems to be waking up, and I’m informed that we have yet another high sec wormhole connection coming into the home system. I’m starting to think Dolby really does have some kind of homing beacon on him, though he swears it’s not the case.

“I don’t even want to leave the tower shields, right now,” he comments on voice comms, “I lost another two ships yesterday.”

“Really?” I’m puzzled. “Man, we need to get you working with the buddy system or something, until you get this bad luck of yours worked out. What happened?”

But there’s no answer. He’s logged out, and I suppose I should do the same, as the rest of the world (like New Eden) is waking up as well.

Life in a Wormhole: Scouting, Scouting, and Scouting #eveonline

Today’s schedule is a bit odd, as I have quite a bit of free time to poke around the lost recesses of wormhole space, but none of it in long stretches. There’s some kind of Alliance Op going on (a system assault that grew out of the killmail bingo I mentioned a few days ago), but since I’m taking my EvE in many small doses today, that looks like a poor option for me — to the scanning probes!

Our current wormhole constellation is partially mapped, thanks to our fellow pilots from down under, so I have a quick shufti and poke my nose into every system in the constellation, but it looks like everyone’s asleep, even Goonswarm, who (once again) owns the null-sec space to which our neighboring class two system connects.

With nothing else to shoot, I let Cab and Tweed lure me back to the home system to explore a magnometric signature they’ve located. Explore with bullets, that is. We do so, gather up the loot, and realize a nice little 55 million isk profit for all of 20 minutes of total effort. I gather up the loot and (rather than doing market research and other nonsense) haul it out to market through a random connection we currently have to high sec — the second one in two days. While out and about, I pick up a few supplies, and skitter back through the dying connection to take a break.


I’m back a bit later in the afternoon, and see from our shared system notebook that we currently have four wormholes in the system. Two are normal, and the previous high-sec connection has died, but it’s been replaced by not one but two additional random connections to high-sec.

“I think Dolby has some kind of high-sec beacon on him,” one of our pilots comments. “He’s certainly making enough use of them.” Apparently, our new pilot has been using the connections out to high security space to do some solo mining, since we don’t currently have any mining sites open in the home system. It’s a bit odd or at least a bit atypical, but as long as he’s being careful, I suppose it’s no problem.

We’re all on voice chat, and I find out why Em mentioned the problem with talking directly to Dolby. Apparently, his computer system is fit with an extensive surround sound system, and he routes all voice comms through the main speakers at some very loud setting. The echo and reverb coming back through the microphone if you happen to be talking when he opens his own mic is, in a word, deafening. Dolby seems to be very proud of the set up, and inexplicably amused by the number of people in his old alliance who ‘hated it’.

I imagine if that amused him, the reaction from his new corpmates is going to seem hilarious.

Despite Dolby’s affection for highsec mining, I decide to look another direction for amusement, and head through our connection to wormhole space to see what entertainments our neighbors might provide. Sadly, the answer is ‘none’, as it’s home to what looks like a PvE corporation that keeps their system meticulously groomed while at the same time avoiding any losses to predator pilots. They may not be big on PvP, but they’re smart and careful and have little to no intention of falling for any bait we throw their way.

I report these findings, and the rest of the pilots in the hole set out to collapse our connection so we can find some other option. We take the wormhole down with no problems and quickly find the new signature, but our new neighborhood isn’t much more appealing than the last, as it’s yet another heavily-pruned system (this one occupied by a couple Russian corporations who are currently sleeping). The only feature of note is a connection to known space only a couple jumps from our home offices. CB runs out to drop off a disused Iteron and pick up one of his Mammoth haulers, and I take out some lower-tech fittings and gear that we never use and probably never needed to bring to the hole in the first place, then it’s break time again.


The evening is drawing on, but we’ve decided to try our luck resetting our wormhole connection once again, overstressing the hole with a series of battleship jumps that brings it crashing down. Tweed and I locate and jump through to the new system and proceed with scanning in what looks like a completely uninhabited system full of sleeper anomalies and other juicy signatures that unfortunately takes quite awhile to sort through. By the time we’ve got the system properly scouted it’s getting late and I’m getting tired, so I leave the riches for Tweed, Dolby, and the newly-arrived Cabbage to plunder, and call it a night.

Life in a Wormhole: Wait for Backup #eveonline

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this Dolby guy.”

Trust Em to know what I’m thinking even when he doesn’t know that he knows what I’m thinking.

It’s the next day, and I’m hanging out near Syndicate, running level three missions for some Minmatar agents to kill some time before a roam later that day. Hopefully, this will finally push my standing the last .01 points I need to open up level 4 agents with that faction. (No, I don’t really need to have level 4 Minmatar agents available, but it bugs me to be that close and not finish it up.) My ship of choice for this little side project is an Ishkur assault frigate; more than enough ship to manage the worst that most level 3 missions can offer, since it’s small and fast enough that most of the Angel autocannons miss.

It’s fun to see the new animations when someone misses your ship — we never get to see that in a wormhole — Sleepers don’t miss.

“What’s up with Dolby?”

“Apparently,” Em drawls, “Cabbage got him into his corp last night, and the guy started moving stuff in.” He pauses. “Or tried to. I guess he got about 800 million isk worth of his ships blown up, trying to get into the hole. Plus implants.”

“He got podded, too?” I frown. “Who was watching the gates for him?”

“No one. He just did it on his own. He’s got this nullsec mentality about being on his own so hardwired he didn’t even ask. No one even knew he was on his way until he started bitching about losing ships.”

“Well, that’s –” I stop. “Wait, Berke and Bre got back into the hole this morning through a HIGH-sec connection. What connection was this guy using?”

“The low-sec,” Em says. “In Aridia.”

“What –”

“Something like eight or nine jumps through low, with no escort or scouts.”

I remember the amount of cover and coordination we put together just to bring in a few ships for Moondog, and my head starts to hurt.

I'm not sure what to think about this.

“We tried to get him on comms to coordinate, but that was a problem.”

“What –”

“You’ll see.”

Oh goody.

I wrap up the mission and switch ships for the roam, which is another RvB extravaganza featuring rifter-class hulls, wandering around the Syndicate region trying to get blown up. This particular event is a smashing success, with a great fight with Agony Unleashed to start things off, and a horrifying/hilarious fireball of destruction to wrap things up a few hours later.

Best of all, since I got out to known space yesterday, I’m able to immediately jump back to my main clone and head back into the home system (via that same High-sec connection), to find a Cynabal cruiser waiting for me — which is a bit of a surprise, since I didn’t buy one. Apparently, Cabbage did, since he’d heard me mention wanting one in the past, and “People are more likely to risk ships if they didn’t pay for them.” Well alrighty then; I thank Cab and promise to use it only for reckless things.

I won’t lie: I’ve had a crush on this ship for a good long time, and since (as a ship designed by the Angel pirates) it combines the technologies of both Gallente and Minmatar designs, it’s right in my wheelhouse in terms of skill requirements.

After very little consideration (and ignoring CB’s suggestion of “Banana Slug”), I name it Hellbender.

I don’t spend much time oogling the new ship, since there is apparently a neighboring system full of Sleepers to shoot. The locals spotted our scouts, but their only response was to reship into some very large, very impressive, very expensive, very SLOW ships that are pretty good for PvE, and pretty harmless in PvP… and then log out. How disappointing.

Still, that lets us spend our night gathering up melted sleeper bits, which is what we do for roughly a 375 million isk profit.

A good roam in a cheap ships, a fancy toy to play with when I get home, and some profit. All in all, a pretty good day.

Life in a Wormhole: Gadabout #eveonline

My comms are full of annoying distractions when I log in, and they’re proving unusually difficult to tune out.

First off is alliance chatter about some kind of bounty prize contest… thing. Apparently, the goal is to get more people involved in PvP by awarding prizes to anyone who manages to tic a box on a laundry list of different kinds of kills over the next couple weekends: sort of a treasure hunt of death or a game of murder bingo.

Yeah. Pretty much this.

Now, I don’t want to dismiss the effort being put forward by whoever came up with the idea, but the whole concept carries about the same appeal, for me, as beer pong. Let me explain.

Who here has, either recently or in the distant, hazy past, played some kind of drinking game? Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about quarters, or Cardinal Puff Puff, or ‘drink when Mal is left at a loss for words’ Firefly Booze Bingo, or the aforementioned beer pong; raise your hand.

*raises hand*

Right. Now… do you still do that sort of thing with any regularity?

If you answered “yes”, you are excused. Toddle off now, you’re late for class.

If you answered “no”, it’s probably for one of two reasons:

  1. You don’t really drink that much anymore (or at all), and don’t enjoy a game whose express goal is to get you to drink more than you otherwise would.
  2. You enjoy a good drink, perhaps several, perhaps many, and you don’t need a game to help you pace yourself.
A clever idea, but ultimately I'd rather just have a beer and play on a normal sized board.

PvP is kind of like that. There is a small, small subset of people who will engage enthusiastically in any kind of killmail bingo you set up. They’re a bit like the college frat boys that cycle through an endless supply of drinking games — gung-ho now, likely to crash and burn eventually (possibly swearing off the sauce entirely).

Everyone else? Everyone else probably breaks down fairly neatly into three groups: disinterested, social drinkers, and those impressively grim bastards silently holding up the bar at the local pub. (That last group of guys might actually win the killmail bingo, but if so, they did it by accident.)

I think you can probably see where I’m going with this: you’re not going to convert anyone to an active PvPer this way any more than a game of Battleshots is going to make someone realize that binge drinking has been the one thing missing from their lives. The non-drinkers will keep non-drinking, the casual social drinkers will have a few with some of their friends if the opportunity presents, and the serious guys? Well, they don’t see the point of a drinking game to begin with; if you’re going to drink, drink.

Aside from that, the whole thing sounds needlessly complex, and I am a simple creature, so I just file it and mute that comms channel for awhile.


There’s nothing in our adjacent class two wormhole system but a high-sec exit and a connection to a class one wormhole, which is also empty except for a high-sec exit. So… high-sec or yet more high-sec; what shall I do? How about run some errands in high-sec?

Said errands include selling some loot and then a bit of shopping, as Ty has finally got off his indolent rear end and finished off the training for interceptor-class frigates, which was a subset of ships he’s thus far left in the capable hands of pilots like Bre, Em, CB, and Ichi. The Minmatar “Claw” combat interceptor has caught his eye, however, and he spends the better part of an hour fiddling together a machine that might actually be able to lay a glove on a missile-fit Crow (the Caldari combat inty). We’ll see.

Ty fwooshes back home in the new ship while Bre and Berke experiment in the empty C2 system with a project of Berke’s he’s dubbed the “porta-tower” — testing how long and how much of a pain it would be to anchor and online a temporary tower in a system where it would be worth our time to set up a lengthy bivouac. The test is informative, but it takes a bit too long, and both pilots (and the returning Ty) get cut off when the connection to our home system collapses of old age.

Ah well; its not as though we don’t have a ton of high-sec options. There’s not really even a reason to rush; with the porta-tower set up already and the hangar of Berke’s Orca filled with a buffet of ships, Bre and Ty take the time to shoot some sleepers and harvest some gas before we call it a day and head out.

Once out in the known world, we split up, with Bre and Berke heading toward Amarr space (where it is 80% likely our next connection from the Home System will be), and Ty flying the Claw in the direction of the Syndicate region for a roam the next day.

With nothing but multiple system jumps going on, the second distraction finally starts to register.


This second distraction comes in the form of some whining on comms. A pilot with an unpronounceable name (let’s call him Dolby) is looking for Cabbage, claiming that Cab is “an old, old friend” who invited him to join his corporation and move into the wormhole, and that he “owes me an invite.”

First off, Cab lives down under, and is probably asleep right now. And no, I can’t help you out, because…

Secondly, I don’t much care about your alleged past history, and…

Third: why are you on our private, password-protected comms channel?

This, unlike the previous distraction, doesn’t feel like one I can just mute and ignore until it goes away. I have, in the words of another science fiction intellectual property, a Bad Feeling About This.

Life in a Wormhole: Two Exits, No Joy #eveonline

I’ve been told by some of my more opinionated … readers?

Hmm. They say they don’t read the blog, actually, and I don’t think they’re fans, exactly, so let’s say…

I’ve been told by some of my more opinionated EvE acquaintances that I should stop writing about every little thing.

“Just focus on the big explosions!” They suggest. “Whether they’re you or someone else.”

And that’s fine — that would ensure some consistently exciting reading, certainly. But I won’t be doing that. There are a couple reasons.

  1. It’s inaccurate. Some days are really slow and not much happens, especially in a wormhole. There aren’t any agents to get a mission from when there’s nothing else to do out in the lost reaches of space; you have to make your own fun. Basically, if you aren’t a self-starter — if you aren’t willing to scan and search and explore — you will twiddle your thumbs, waiting for someone else to bring the fun to you, like one of those obese carnival attractions that has to wash himself with a rag on a stick. And, sometimes, even when you go exploring, you don’t find anything. Them’s the breaks.
  2. This way is more challenging for me to write. Not every day is exciting, but hopefully I can (with some extra effort on my part) make at least most of the days entertaining to read about.

So that’s that thing discussed. Now then…


Our class two system connection yields up small but profitable crop of sleeper anomalies to harvest, which is just the right size for a smaller group of pilots like myself, Tweed, and Cabbage. We hit a half-dozen of the least annoying sites, then pack it in.

I still feel like doing something, though, so once the Sleeper shooting is done, I reship and open the class two’s connection to nullsec, because I’m curious where it might lead.

Goonspace! We almost never see a connection to the home of the notorious Goonswarm Federation; that’s almost kind of cool.

"Say it with me: Gooooooonswarm. Gooooooooooonswarm. Goonswarm."

More interesting, however, are the scanning probes I spot on d-scan.

“Hop in something that can tackle a cloaky frigate,” I tell Tweed.

“Is that even possible?” he asks, flying back to the tower for his current best option.

“Catching something that can insta-cloak and warp off? No.” I admit. “But they may make a mistake.”

It’s not long before I see a Helios covert-ops frigate decloak on the null-sec side of the hole and jump through.

“That’s a red flash. Repeat, red flash on the hole.”

“I see him –” there’s a moment of silence. “Nope. He got clear.”

“No worries. He’s wide awake now, anyway.” I ponder the now-empty local channel out in Goonspace. “So he’s either going to pull the same trick coming back, or call in fifty of his closest friends.” I look up information on the Helios pilot, and note that within the Goonswarm, he has the title ‘Commander of the Local Defense Force’. “Let’s assume he’s going to go with option two.”

“You think he’ll get a lot backup?”

I shrug. “They don’t call it Goon-just-a-couple-of-dudes.”

“Good point. I should get going anyway.”

“Works for me.” We head back to the home system, and catch site of the Helios hopping back out to Goonspace just as we leave, noting that our connection from that class two system has conveniently gone into its End-of-Life death throes, which doesn’t necessarily ensure we won’t be followed, but does lower the odds a bit. Outside of other wormhole dwellers, most pilots in New Eden don’t like going too far down the rabbit hole when there’s a good chance they’ll get stranded.

“Alright, I’m out.”

“Later.”

It’s just me in the home system, and the hour is getting late, but I’m restless, so I jump out through our static connection to low-sec space for a bit of a poke around and find myself in Venal, home of the Gurista pirates and birthplace of my trusty Gila cruiser.

Is the haven of any potential targets, though? I check for signs of activity via Dotlan and see some ship kills (both NPC and player-flown) in nearby system, and head that way, but it’s not to be: I find only abandoned wrecks and a couple frozen, floating corpses.

Twilight Sparkle wanders the wilds of Venal Low-sec. (Actual screenshot)

“What ever happened here, Leiutenant, I think we missed it.”

Indeed. I head back home and call it a night, a few ISK richer and a few near-misses away from a fight.

Life in a Wormhole: How Can You Miss Me if I Never Leave? #eveonline

First, a quick behind-the-scenes update: CCP contacted me and told me they’d changed their minds about the whole media account thing, so it looks like I’m back to writing about EvE stuff for the foreseeable future. I will probably keep doing the Life_in_EvE twitter account, however, and just figure out a way to tie it in here.

Now then, where were we…


“Oh man, Ty’s bringing his Proteus,” Em murmurs over comms. “Shit just got real.”

“You told me to hurry,” I reply. “This is what I was already flying.”

I’m dropping out of warp next to our lowsec connection in response to Tweed announcing he’s spotted a couple haulers once again using our system to move goods from their home out to the public markets. This hasn’t gone very well for anyone in the past, but in this case the pilot gets a pass — it turns out he’s flying a blockade-running Viator transport which is both nimble and able to warp while cloaked. This means we get virtually no time to lock the ship before it’s clear of our slapdash ambush and safely back at home. Bugger.

“Clearly, we need to blame Tweed for this.”

“Sorry guys,” Tweed answers. “I’ll try to find something slower and stupider next time.”

“See that you do.”


Tweed’s as good as his word.

I log in the next day in response to a summons from CB, and work to sift through the information everyone’s sharing with me over comms. There’s another hauler. It’s an Iteron III. It’s cloaked up right now, but it’s not going anywhere like that. It’s at… a tower? What?

Oh, no, it’s in the middle of taking down a tower, an hour-long process that (according to the publicly visible timer) should wrap up in about 26 minutes, thus dropping the force field and leaving the hauler (probably still lurking around cloaked) defenseless and the tower itself entirely yoinkable.

By this point, several of our pilots have slid into position in cloaked up stealth bombers, ready to wreak havoc. The only concern is the Rapier-class force recon cruiser that’s sitting at another nearby tower owned by the same corporation, but since it’s the only other ship beside the Iteron III that actually boasts a conscious pilot, it’s not too worrisome. I slip into the system in Twilight Sparkle and warp down the unanchoring tower as well, ready to get up close and personal with the Rapier if he comes out to rescue his corp mate.

The time ticks by, the forcefield dies, and a wild Iteron III appears, only to be greeted by a double handful of bombs that vaporize the ship and the pilot’s pod in short order.

The game is on! Get ready for reinforcements! I warp in close to the deactivated tower, holding cloak and ready to pounce when the Rapier shows up.

Twilight Sparkle puts on her War Face.

Except, of course, the Rapier doesn’t show up. Or move, actually — the pilot’s apparently busy toasting a bagel or fixing up a cup of coffee Just. So.

Ah well. There’s still a lovely tower to pick up and haul home. Ichi hops into a hauler of our own and makes off with the structure. Once he’s off the grid, the rest of our gang resumes cloak and vanishes into the woodwork. Not the most fiery of PvP engagements, but the job was done well, everyone bombed the right target (no mean feat when everyone’s invisible at the start), and we have a tower to sell the next time we head to market.

Life in a Wormhole: Winning at Eve Blogging #eveonline

When I first started playing EvE about a year ago, it was an investigative role on behalf of MMO Reporter, and my editor asked CCP to give me some game time so I could really dig in and write some articles.

Quite unexpectedly, they set my main account up for a year of play time, which was a bit of a shock, as I’d only intended to write a few EvE-related articles for the site in question.

Once those articles were done, I felt a bit… obligated, I guess. I’d been ‘paid’ a year’s worth of time for a couple week’s worth of writing, and I enjoyed the game, so I just… started writing about whatever I could think of to write, using my own gaming-related website as a repository for all of it (and overwhelming the non-EvE-related stuff in the process). That these posts have been well-received by the EvE community was an unexpected but welcome bonus.

There’s a meme that circulates around the EvE playerbase wherein a player is said to be winning at EvE when they unsubscribe from the game. The particularly optimistic and/or confident ex-player might expand on that to claim that they have actually beaten EvE, but most won’t do that, because such statements have a way of being proven wrong, given enough time.

Over the last year, I’ve helped quite a few “winning” players start losing at EvE again, and that’s something I’m really kind of happy about. For whatever reason, these little stories about our misadventures in Anoikis inspire old players to return to the game, and convince new players to give it a try. That’s good — it makes me feel that I’ve repayed CCP in kind. I love hearing from those players, which I do on a fairly regular basis.

Unfortunately, this type of nigh-daily blogging is, for me, coming to a close.

My year’s worth of play-time and, thus, the ‘pay’ I got to write regularly about EvE is just about used up, and while I’ve contacted CCP to request an extension, I’ve been (nicely) informed this blog isn’t really a professional media outlet (agreed), and as a result a media account doesn’t make sense for them.

Fair enough.

I’m still going to play, obviously; I really enjoy the game, but that sense of writing obligation is gone. As a general rule, I get paid to write, and if I’m putting time into writing something that I’m not getting paid for when there’s paying work waiting on my desk — well, that’s just irresponsible. So I’ll be tabling the daily EvE posts for the foreseeable future.

My non-EvE-playing friends (all of whom have been reading this blog for much longer than I’ve been writing about EvE) just heaved a long sigh of relief.

What sort of EvE stuff will I continue to post?

Mainly, articles that strike me as interesting enough to do just-because.

Aside from that, I’m going to continue to document my day to day misadventures via Twitter, in a mini-diary format of which I’m very fond. It’s not as detailed, but it’s often a bit more fun (and sometimes quicker) to write, and leaves room for some good conversations when people ask for more details. You can find the Twitter feed at Life in EvE — I’ve taken the not-insubstantial time to back-fill it with the full Life in a Wormhole timeline and begun posting new stuff. I hope that if you enjoyed the posts here, you’ll enjoy this new thing as well.

I expect I will.

Life in a Wormhole: Should have Just Stayed Home #eveonline

One of the really interesting EvE-related youtube posters that I enjoy is a guy named Kil2, especially when he posts a video about some major mistake he made. Now, don’t get me wrong: he’s a hell of a PvPer in a subset of PvP that both interests me and which I think it particularly important and relevant in Wormholes; specifically, solo and small gang PvP. I’ve learned a lot from listening to his “Bringing Solo Back” podcasts, as well as watching his videos.

But I like his “I screwed up” posts, because failure and mistakes are kind of important, too. More important, in a lot of ways: you generally learn a lot more from mistakes than easy successes.

Why mention it? Because the next couple days are full of failures, and while most are of the ‘frustrating wasted time’ kind, and not the expensive explosions kind, they all taught me something.

The day after we lured the Manticore to attack our bait-salvager, I head for known space to take part in a couple activities. My first ‘to do’ is to get ready for the RvB roam that afternoon, as their theme involves everyone flying the shiny new tier 3 battlecruisers, which I happen to have handy.

I’m interrupted by pilots in our Alliance channel talking as though there’s some major stuff going on in a system where they are currently attacking some enemy group’s tower. Actually, after getting a bit more info, it sounds like the tower is currently in reinforced mode and can’t be attacked at the moment, but that the locals are trying to get reinforcements in and we’re trying to prevent that from happening which, aside from anything else, sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than a basic tower-bash.

As I said, I had some other plans (basicaly getting a couple Tornados all shined up and ready to go for the roam), but I ask them what they need, and they express a strong desire for armor-tanked battleships, which… let’s just put it bluntly, I have little interest in flying and less interest in buying.

Still…

Ahh dammit, fine: they need some help, so I work out a viable close-range brawler in the form of a Typhoon battleship. It takes a bit of time to get it all set up, and when I’m done, I ask for an entry system to fly to and join them.

“Well, it’s such and such system, but we’re going to collapse it soon and get a new one, so we’ll tell you where that one is.”

“Okay.”

Time passes. I spend it fitting my Tornadoes, but eventually there’s nothing else to do, and I check in on that new hole status.

“Oh, yeah, we haven’t collapsed it yet. Hang on though, we have a new entrance anyway — a randomly opened one.”

“Okay.”

Time passes.

I ask for an update, and am told that the threat of invasion has died down, and that little needs to be done at this point.

I am now sitting on a completely kitted out battleship for which I personally have little to no use, and I’ve wasted three hours doing fuck-all in a highsec market station.

Really? You're fine now? All good? That's brilliant.

Lessons Learned: Hey fleet commanders — if you have put out a request for pilots, and people are offering to show up, get them fucking moving your direction. They’re coming from a distance, and spending their time to help you out. Respect that. If you’re too busy (understandable), put someone specifically in charge of handling rendezvous — make that their only job.

Hey guys coming to a fleet — if your time is limited (or, you know, important to you at all) communicate your desire to help and make sure you don’t get forgotten in the hustle and bustle and left to rot. FCs have a ton of stuff to going on, with multiple distractions, so find that fine line between passivity and nagging and make sure they remember that you either need a route to their location or a wave-off. Sitting on your hands wastes everyone’s time. Worst case, just get a location and start moving there — take some initiative. If I’d just started flying toward the first system they’d mentioned, I’ve have been there at least an hour before they got around to collapsing the entrance.

So I strip down the Typhoon and sell off the parts, taking a bath on the destroyed rigging because by this point I just want the damned thing out of my sight. I take a break and come back in time for the roam, meeting up with CB who is also bringing a Tornado. Cool.

Eh. Not so cool. While RvB is generally very casual with their ships on these Ganked roams, and given that the FC (who has way too much money) is actually providing FREE SHIPS to the first eighty people who show up, there is something going on with this particular fleet that is a bit… off.

First off, they’re way too sober. Don’t know what that’s about, but I’ll tell you this: I prefer my internet Brits tipsy, at the very least.

Secondly, while the FC fully intends to die-in-a-fire, the fact that everyone is flying these shiny new ships that have only been in the game for a few weeks is making him… not cautious, exactly, but… picky. In a typical RvB Ganked roam, the fleet will charge into anything that looks like it’ll have some explosions involved, whether that means winning or losing, but since we’re in the New Hotness, they seem to want to ensure that when we die, it’ll be… memorable? Epic enough? Something like that.

So when, only a few jumps into the roam, our scouts spot an approaching fleet of ships from a large alliance, a fleet that would probably provide an interesting fight, the FC decides to avoid it, rather than engage, because they apparently assume that these large-alliance pilots will just call for major backup, jumping in a Titan or a huge fleet of ships, and that we’ll then be squished right off the bat.

(Note: this happens ALL THE TIME in RvB Ganked roams, where the fleet gets decimated right away and has to reship before proceeding, but this week, it’s seen as a bad thing.)

Anyway, the FC decides to fly another direction, avoiding this fight, and in the confusion of reassigning our destination, someone calls out to jump to the gate and jump through to some system name that sounds A LOT like one of the other system names to which we’re also connected.

So the fleet warps one way, and I warp the other, having misheard the system name. I jump on contact, and come out right in front of that fleet we’d just decided to avoid, which is one Tornado down. Right.

I make my way back the 12 jumps to the original staging system (I should have just let them blow up my pod, it would have been much faster), grab my second Tornado and try catching up, but if you do the math I’m already 24 jumps behind just getting to the system where we were split up, and by then the fleet is another 15 or so systems further along and deep into Curse, which is thick with gate camps that love to eat solo ships like mine.

So that’s two more hours gone with nothing to show for it but a stupid loss mail.

Lessons Learned: FCs, especially FCs for roams, have one job — find fights. Yes, you call the route of travel or call targets, but first and foremost, you find fights. You’ve got 2 or 5 or 50 or 500 other players who showed up for a fight, so answering that desire really needs to be your first priority, bar none. Your job is not to keep everyone (or anyone) from getting blown up; get the fleet into a fight and (distant secondary goal) win, or at least blow up doing something (even if it’s something stupid — just as long as it’s not ‘sit there and look confused’). NO or almost-no interesting fights occur without losses on your side, so don’t worry you’re going to lose ships (or, heavens forfend, that their explosion won’t be epic enough).

Pilots, listen to the targets and destination your FCs calls, or you’re going to Leroy into a waiting fleet and get your shiny ship blown up with nothing to show for it, and then waste another two hours trying to catch up to them and hearing about cool fight after cool fight that you can’t see or participate in.

Again, I take a break, and when I’m back, the Alliance fleet in that wormhole POS bash finally have their business figured out and are calling for pilots to come help kill the tower. I have a battleship handy (not that typhoon, obviously), so I join my Home System mates in helping out. It’s no surprise that shooting an undefended, inanimate tower is as boring as ABC Family, but when the tower finally drops, the FC makes everyone wait until every ship has a lock on any of the (many) structures inside the force field before they start shooting it. Then repeat. Over and over.

Why? To make sure everyone gets on the kill mails for each of the cosmic outhouses we’re looting, and gets credit.

I make my excuses and head out, because seriously? Fuck that for a lark. I need to whore my way onto 40 structure killmails like I need breast augmentation.

Lessons learned: POS bashes are boring. I knew that already, but maybe I’ll get it through my head one of these days and think of something better to do with my time. Like crochet. Or… well, anything, really.

FCs: Just get the goddamn structures killed. It’s a boring fucking job in the first place and making sure everyone gets their time cards punched for every barn you burn down is not actually doing anyone any favors. Yeah, it pads a kill board, but that’s not a good thing: it makes bad PvPers think they’re good PvPers because their kill/death ratio looks good on paper. Sod that.

Pilots: Get in, get the job done, because it’s part of being in a group. Help out. Maybe you’ll get lucky and there will be a surprise attack and actual PvP. Maybe. Not likely, but maybe. Someday…


The evening passes, and next day I’m online and hanging out, awaiting the start of another roam in a few hours, this one run by friends of our alliance — the same group as the guys who ran the roam where Em and I flew Talos battlecruisers, but a different FC. The fleet theme is… sniping battlecruisers, but NOT using the new tier3 battlecruisers that are obvious (and excellent) choices for the role, if at all possible. Because I guess… surprise factor? Whatever.

Anyway, I’ve got time to kill, and I’ve got sniping ships on my mind, so I pick up a Rupture cruiser, fit it with the longest range guns it can manage, grab a deployable Warp Disruption bubble, and head out into Syndicate, looking at system statistics for someplace that’s seeing a fair bit of traffic but is still a bit off the beaten path.

Once that’s located, I set up the bubble in a way that will stop anyone warping between the two gates in the system and sit away from it about a hundred kilometers. My plan, such as it is, is simply to take pot shots at anyone dropping into the bubble, hoping their disorientation will give me time to pop them before they figure out what’s going on and can get away. I even get myself set up so I’m at optimal range from the bubble and at warp-range from the nearest gate, giving me a good way out.

What actually happens is that the locals grab a couple stealth bombers and a Falcon force recon cruiser and ambush me while I’m watching the bubble and d-scan. (I was watching for traffic from the nearby-and-only station in the system, but they must not have come from there.) The Falcon perma-jams me, so I can’t return fire, and while I am able to burn away from the bombers fast and far enough to get out of their warp-disruption range, by the time I do that, I’ve moved too close to the nearest gate to warp there — by the time I come about and align to a new target, they’re able to crack my fairly minuscule sniper-ship’s tank and get to the candy filling inside.

Nothing more to add, here.

Lessons learned: Fuck falcons. I kid a bit, but even when it’s on my side, ECM seems kind of… broken. I don’t know if it’s overpowered, exactly, but it’s not… fun. At all. Even when it’s on your side. CCP, take a look at how crowd control works in other games and take some notes about effects that render the target completely unable to act, because they aren’t common, they aren’t absolute, and they aren’t effectively permanent-until-someone’s-dead.

More importantly, if I’m going to try a solo camp-out, I should have put a cloak on the rupture and stayed hidden until a target presented itself. Odds are good I’m not going to get a kill in any case, so the targeting delay from the cloak isn’t going to matter — I’m just testing theories at this point and killing some time. A warp bubble with no ship around is just an annoyance — maybe someone comes to investigate, and I can even shoot them. Who knows? A warp bubble with a single ship around is just… yeah. An easy target. Snipers in the real world keep from getting their heads caved in by HIDING until they decide to act, and that’s what I should have done.

Well, no: what I should have done was something else, really. I should have just solo-roamed and kept moving. My options would have been a lot better, as would my longevity. I was in the mood to mess with sniper-fit ships, however, and since they’re really not that useful for roams, this was the option I had.

Either way, don’t be a target unless that’s the point.

SPEAKING of how sniper ships aren’t really well-suited for roams unless you really know what you’re doing, what’s next on our to-do list?

A roam with a bunch of sniper-fit ships, run by someone who mentions they’ve never done it before, but “it sounds like fun.” What could possibly go wrong?

I have my second Tornado ready, but it turns out we have only one pilot willing to scout, so I stow the battlecruiser and put together a Cheetah covert-ops ship to be the eyes and ears of the fleet. The fleet flies around through the same couple systems in Syndicate for a bit (not where I had been earlier with the Rupture) and send me on ahead a few jumps to find targets.

Finally, my time in the wormhole works to my advantage, as I’m able to use my directional scanner and some slow, cloaked creeping to pull up right alongside a Cynabal cruiser and Drake battlecruiser who are… actually, kind of doing the same thing I had been doing with my Rupture. At least I have a fresh and relevant example of what I need to do in this situation, and I let the fleet know I have targets and a good warp-in for our forward tacklers.

The fleet, however, sends their regrets. While I was scouting, they circled around the same few systems until the locals knew pretty much exactly what sort of ships they hand and mounted an ideal counter-fleet. The two forces engaged on a gate, the sniper ships got beat up a fair bit, and the FC ordered them a single jump away from the system where they’d had the fight, and told everyone to dock up in a station and repair.

The other fleet, of course, camped the station, ready to blow them to tiny bits right on the undock if the long-range ships so much as poked their noses out.

And that was the end of that roam. Right.

Lessons Learned: Play to your strengths. I was happy with my scouting, and think I’m actually pretty good at it. If you’re FCing a fleet and you’re not a weathered veteran of many such things, stick with the simple fleet compositions. Yes, they’re known compositions, but they’re common because they’re effective, and they’re effective because all the pilots know what to DO in most situations. Save tricky and complicated for later. Snipers in the real world don’t go on patrols, and if that’s what you plan to do, use different ships; appropriate ships.

And with that, my jump-clone timer is refreshed, and I’m back in my primary clone and heading back to the wormhole. I won’t say it was a very great couple of days, but it was educational, and I learned a lot.

Life in a Wormhole: Overheat All the Things #eveonline

Iteron down! Iteron down!

Oh, nevermind, that’s someone else’s Iteron hauler, using our system as a route out to known space — it seems like people would learn not to do that, but they never do.

In fact, the neighbors that lost the hauler doesn’t seem genetically disposed to learning behavior. Despite the loss of a ship in a system to which they’re still connected, Tweed reports quite a bit of continued activity in their system, including a Raven battleship… shooting sleepers? Solo?

If you can't say anything nice...

Em would very much like to kill a Raven, but since our pilots shot their hauler at home, and we’ve only been stealthily watching them since then, their system is only partially scouted, and we don’t have bookmarks for whatever obscure location the Raven is at. Tweed gets out of range of the tower, drops probes, and starts an initial scan.

“This is going to take awhile.”

“How many signatures are there?”

“Thirty… one? Thirty-two.”

I suppose one of the upsides to an incredibly messy system is that it conceals your activities and slows down newcomers to your system, but that’s like saying hoarders have a good home security system. Seriously, clean up your crap.

Meanwhile, the Raven vanishes off d-scan, then reappears about five minutes later, which seems to indicate the pilot is running errands through a wormhole to known space, or collapsing said wormhole (very slowly).

“Or he’s scouting out the exit so that Iteron pilot can get his new clone back into their system,” points out Ichi.

Ahh. Probably that. I didn’t realize the hauler pilot had gotten his pod destroyed as well.

Tweed scans, working over the area where the Raven seems to be located, where there are “only” 19 signatures to sort through. Most lowsec connections have a weaker signal strength on scans, but since there are so many sites, even that clue doesn’t help much in terms of speeding up the process of elimination, and by the time we locate the exit, Tweed is fairly certain his probes have been spotted, as the Raven pilot has returned to their tower’s force field. The small fleet of ships lurking on the other side of the entrance into his system are disappointed.

“What’s he doing over there?”

“There’s two of them. One’s in a scanning ship, and the Raven pilot just reshipped into a… Manticore.”

Now that is interesting. The stealth bomber looks like a show of force; somewhat more effective than the Raven, as the small ship can fly cloaked and dish out quite a lot of damage on an unsuspecting target. Too bad we don’t have any unsuspecting targets for him to att– hey.

“I have an idea,” I say on comms. “I’ll be right back.”

I warp back to our wormhole connection and from there to our tower, where I swap out Twilight Sparkle for Drageron, the Gila-class cruiser I usually use for running anomalies. As a drone-boat, it’s not a very common sight in wormholes, thanks to wildly exaggerated tales of Sleeper ships targeting and destroying drones within seconds of them of them being sent into combat. My estimation of our target’s research skills are fairly low at this point, so it’s my hope that he might take a shot at the cruiser if I go over and start shooting up their anomalies, taking it for an easy target.

As an added plus, the Gila is somewhat ridiculously over-tanked for class two wormhole systems, which lets me remove a couple of shield modules and replace them with a propulsion module and a Warp Disruptor, which should be enough to pin the Manticore down if he does take a shot, and still have more than enough tank to handle any active Sleepers. Thus refit, I jump back to the other system, then jump to the system’s exit out to low sec known space and sit there for a couple minutes.

“Hum de dum. Here I am in my little drone-filled cruiser, completely inappropriate for wormholes. Clearly, I am from low sec, and those probes you saw, Mister Raven, were from my otherwise-harmless scanning alt. I am all alone, and most certainly not from that nasty class two system filled with all those pilots who killed your friend a few hours ago. All those people went to sleep.”

“You know he can’t actually hear you.”

“Shut up. I’m Method, bitches.”

I do a quick passive scan of the Sleeper anomalies in the system, and pick one that’s within directional scanning range of their tower, but only barely, then I warp in at the worst range possible and proceed to run the site as inefficiently as possible. Wrecks are scattered across the starry sky as far as the Overview can see.

“Manticore and Anathema have both warped out of the tower and cloaked up. Probes on scan.”

“Probes? He can find the site I’m in with passive scans!”

“They’re combat probes. He must think he has to scan down your ship.”

Time goes by. The probes very, VERY slowly converge on my location.

“Did you put a microwarpdrive on that thing?” asks Em. “Can you turn it on so your signature gets bigger?”

“Unfortunately, no,” I reply, pulling my sentry drones back in and deploying the smallest drones I have in the bay, just to slow down the process and give this guy more time. “I’m going as slowly as I can.”

“I think you’ll need to go slower.”

He may not be wrong, as the probes are still on scan and converging when I finish the site. Luckily, I only have to waste another minute before they disappear — a sign that the pilot finally located me and pulled his probes back.

Unfortunately, there’s no attack, and I can’t linger in the site any longer without looking suspicious.

“Warp to another site and clear that one?”

“Move? He’d have to find me again. I don’t have that much free time.” I sigh. “I’ll go get a salvager.”

“Have you got one that can tank a bomber?”

“Not yet.”

I warp straight back to our hole, convinced now that any misdirection about my point of origin will be wasted, as the pilots in the system aren’t picking up data fast enough to get anything but the most obvious information. Back at our tower, I reship into a Catalyst destroyer that we sometimes use for salvaging and move the Warp Disruptor from the Gila to my new ride, staring at the fitting window and trying to figure out how to tweak the rest of the modules to survive a bomber assault. The other pilots suggest a number of modules, none of which I have available, since our tower is woefully short on things like Frigate- and Destroyer-sized armor plates. I finally settle on a Damage Control unit to capitalize on the Catalyst’s Gallente origins, and fill the other two low slots with a passive omni-resistance plate left over from fitting Twilight Sparkle and… hello what’s this?

Down at the bottom of Gor’s personal equipment hangar, I catch the gleam of an anti-kinetic actively-powered armor resistance module, which is quite useful, as the Caldari-born Manticore will very likely be doing almost all Kinetic damage. I borrow the module (offlining all but a few of ship’s tractor beams and salvagers to give me the grid and CPU I need to make it fit) and hope Gor won’t mind too much if I get it blown up.

“On my way back.”

The system is quiet, and the site is clear of everything but wrecks, which I start to gather up. Thankfully, I did the site in such a way as to scatter the wrecks everywhere, which means I can take my time slowboating from wreck to wreck, leaving my microwarpdrive off in case the Manticore finally drops a bomb.

“Ichi, can you get in an interceptor?” I ask. “It may be useful.”

“Sure thing.”

“Want me out of the Hurricane?” asks CB.

I think about it. “On the very very slim chance that he’s bluffing us, stay in it, in case he has cloaky friends.”

I putter through the site, looking as vulnerable as I can, with only my damage control unit running — the active armor hardener gives the ship’s hull a distinctive glimmer that a knowledgeable pilot would recognize as a very odd addition to a real salvaging ship, and I don’t want to tip my hand on something so simple.

“BOMB.” Tweed calls out.

He’s right. The bomb is lumbering toward me, and there’s the Manticore, just on the outside edge of my Warp Disruptor’s range. I start a target lock and head his way, flipping on the active hardener and waiting for the detonation.

My ship’s systems tell me when the bomb goes off, screaming a warning about my evaporated shields. I have a lock on the Manticore, who is now lobbing torpedoes my direction, and (despite the incoming missiles) flip on my microwarpdrive to close the distance. The signature bloom from the propulsion unit ensures that the torps do their maximum damage to my little ship, but the actively-hardened armor takes it, thanks in no small part to that (currently overheating) kinetic resistance module. My destroyer sprints across the 20 kilometers to the Manticore and drops into a tight orbit 500 meters off the ship, at which point I shut off the microwarpdrive and stop overheating the armor resistance module.

“I’ve got him,” I announce. “Come hit him. Warp to me.”

Pilots in non-cloaky ships jump in from our system and get into warp, and I see them appear on my directional scan. The manticore pilot does as well, and seems to realize he’s in trouble — he wheels away (still tossing torpedoes at me over his shoulder) and lights up his own microwarpdrive to get clear of my Warp Disruptor’s range.

Once again, I’m faced with the necessity of burning into oncoming torpedoes with a microwarpdrive lit, but after taking this long to draw the pilot out, I have little interest in letting him get away, so I flip the module back on, take off in pursuit, and start heating up the armor. The torps are beating the hell out of me, but it’s holding… kind of — I’ve got about 5% of the plating left before it’s time to test the famously over-engineered Gallente ship structure.

“I’ve got him jammed,” comes Em’s calm voice, like he’s ticking “avocados” off a shopping list. I see his Falcon on my Overview where it hadn’t been before, and the torpedo rain magically stops falling.

Unfortunately, the nimble bomber is really pulling away from me, and I overheat my own Microwarpdrive to slow his escape, even if I can’t prevent it. He’s three kilometers from getting outside my disruptor’s range.

My fellow pilots drop out of warp, but they’re already twenty kilometers behind me and forty kilometers from the Manticore, as they warped to where I was at the moment their engines engaged, not to where I am now.

“Ichi, I need you to catch this guy.”

Two kilometers… One… Ichi’s Crow interceptor passes me so quickly I wonder if I burned out my microwarpdrive and am sitting dead in space.

My disruptor shuts down, Aura telling me that the target is no longer within range.

“Son of a…”

“Got him,” calls Ichi. “I mean, Point. I have point. Got him.”

“Kill him,” murmurs Em, his voice still low and even. “And get the pod.”

He does, and we do.

It’s a good day.

I give my trusty little bait-destroyer a pat on the dashboard and review the blinking warning lights flashing up at me.

“Anyone have any nanite repair paste?”

Life in a Wormhole: Lose Some, Win Some #eveonline

Bre logs in and reports that the 850 million isk wormhole… is now occupied. So entrenched have the locals become in the last 20 hours that they’re apparently already running mining operations, as Bre has a Retriever mining barge and Osprey cruiser on scan.

That’s a bit odd, though, since Bre’s combat probes don’t pick up the gravitational signature of an asteroid belt anywhere nearby. She runs a quick scan on the two ships, locating them easily, and warps to their location at range to find the two ships floating in empty space, piloted, and over 80 kilometers from one another.

The whole thing seems decidedly odd. Either one of the ships is a potential victim for Bre’s launcher-equipped Anathema, but the whole thing has the stink of rotten bait about it. She scans for the current exit to high sec while she turns her options over and locates the new tower in the process — goodness but they got that thing up quickly.

Once she has the exit bookmarked, she warps back to the two miners just in time to see a tengu strategic cruiser uncloak about 160 kilometers away from both ships, after which the lot of them warp back to their tower.

Bre’s instincts serve her well, and she heads out of the system and back home with an intact ship, although still annoyed and disappointed that the sale fell through because the buyer couldn’t be arsed to get online and close the deal in less than four days.

Meanwhile, we’ve scanned down our lowsec exit to give our wayward real estate agent a way back in. The system we find ourselves connected to is somewhat terrible, as it connects to the more useful areas of known space only through the infamously gank-tastic system of Old Man Star. This presents no problems for Bre getting home, but it’s not very useful for fitting out our shiny new Tornados. Ah well. What’s in the other direction?

Our other static connection opens into a class two wormhole system with no less than thirty-five anomalies immediately visible on scan, three good-looking radar signatures to sweeten the pot, and home to only a single poorly defended tower that the owners have all but abandoned.

In short, our neighbors have left bales of money laying around in their back yard.

We fire up a flare, pilots assemble, cargo holds are filled to the rim with ammunition, and a fleet forms, consisting of CB, Em, Ichi, Tweed, Shan, and me. Our goal: to hit every possible Sleeper enclave in the system. We pause only once, when the local tower’s forcefield goes offline without warning. It looks like the locals really were leaving, and decided not to take the tower with them, though they did make off with all the gear therein. So strange. You’d think that if you were going to move out of a wormhole, you’d take the 250 million isk tower with you. Apparently not.

Whatever. We don’t have time to ponder the eccentricities of unknown pilots, as there’s money to made and even at 5 to 7 minutes per site, 38 anomalies and signatures still take quite a lot of time to blast to flinders — it’s the most extensive single-session Sleeper flensing any of us have ever undertaken, and we spend the time chatting on voice comms, getting acquainted with our new alliance mate, and staving off boredom.

CB in particular seems to need some kind of adrenaline infusion, as the ‘sit back and let the drones do the work’ style of the Gila cruiser he’s currently trying out really doesn’t seem to suit him. He warps back to our tower for a few minutes and returns with his PvP-equipped Talos battlecruiser. The ship’s oversized guns are a bit too big to reliably track the small sleeper frigates, the capacitor is far too unstable for typical PvE work, and the tank is entirely insufficient when compared to the punishment that Sleepers dish out.

It is, in CB’s own words, “the most fun I’ve had in PvE since I ran that very first sleeper site in a Brutix.” He blazes across the battlefield, microwarpdrive flaring, charging at Sleeper battleships as if he hopes to stave in their hull with the prow of his ship (which, to be fair, seems custom-built for such a tactic), and he only almost dies one time. Maybe twice.

RAMMING SPEED!
[Image by Tweed. Click to embiggen.]

All in all, it’s a good night, and time profitably-spent; the final tally puts our net profit at just over 1.2 billion isk.

Life in a Wormhole: Fish or Cut Bait #eveonline

Bre would very much like to sell the wormhole she’s been sitting in for several days and come home, but the buyer and the broker (both in the EU), have trouble coordinating their time with hers, and they finally have to agree on finalizing the sale the next day — an arrangement made much easier to accept thanks to the final offer that ended the bidding: 850 million isk. Bre scans the system and second and then a third time, convinced there’s no way such a great system will stay unoccupied indefinitely, but the horizon looks clear and she logs out for the evening to try to think of something else.

Gor reports the Tornados are cooking in the tower foundry, and I decide to take my mind off the manufacturing process by poking around the connection to our neighboring class two system, which one of the other pilots already opened.

These plans come to a screeching halt when my cloaked Proteus coasts out of warp to see an unknown Buzzard-class covert-ops frigate slide through the hole and into our system. The fragile scout wheels and warps away from the hole as it cloaks, completely unaware of my ship only a few dozen kilometers away.

I let everyone know we have company (including the pilot’s name) and, since the enemy Buzzard is gone, take the opportunity for a little counter-recon by hopping into the other system.

Once again, a covert ops ship brings me up short, as I arrive on the other side of the hole near an uncloaked Helios frigate owned by the same corporation as the Buzzard.

Now, I could decloak and try to target and destroy the Helios, but I don’t waste the time for a number of reasons. First, the Helios is an agile, cloak-capable ship, and the pilot just saw someone jump into his system, so he’s going to be on his guard. Given that, he could either cloak or warp away or both before I could get a lock on the ship. Second: even if by some strange chance I did manage to lock down his warp drive, he could just jump through the wormhole itself and escape to the other side, leaving me trailing in his wake and trying the same thing on the other side with even worse odds of success.

Third: there are a number of pointy ships and a tower on d-scan, and given how active their scouts are, I somehow doubt they’d be slow to come to the Helios pilot’s aid if I make a play here.

Discretion being the better part of recon, I simply wheel my ship around, decloak, and jump back into the home system. I could just as easily have jumped further into enemy territory, but I have a bad feeling about this one, and in EvE, that paranoid feeling you sometimes get is usually right. On the other side of the hole I quickly cloak up and get out to a reasonably ‘safe’ range from the wormhole to observe enemy activity.

Meanwhile, Em has been doing some research on the pilot I reported earlier, and shares what she’s learned while I watch the enemy Helios jump in, cloak, and warp off in the same direction as the Buzzard. It seems the corporation of which both pilots are a member has a rather… impressive record of kills in wormhole space. More importantly, almost none of those kills are solo, and in fact the main combat pilots almost always work in groups of three or four.

More troubling: none of the primary killers are the two pilots I’ve already spotted.

So, either these two pilots are trying to make a name for themselves in a particularly warlike corporation, or (far more likely), they’re scanning and scouting alts, and the dangerous customers are waiting to hear if there’s anything worth shooting at over here.

Something like, say, a shiny Proteus strategic cruiser that the Helios almost ran directly into.

Lo and behold, no sooner have we come to the conclusion these two frigates are not acting alone, then the wormhole flares again and a lone Tengu strategic cruiser fades into view a few dozen klicks away from my cloaked ship. Once in the system, the pilot (who I can’t help but notice is one of the more deadly members of the corporation) proceeds to…

… sit there.

Yup. He’s just sitting there, doing nothing. Stationary, that’s the word.

I’m sure he doesn’t intend to look like a blatantly obvious bait ship, but… yeah. He’s a blatantly obvious bait-ship.

The enemy ploy nearly draws us in, but we resist their wiles.

It can be fun, when encountering a bait ship, to knowingly take the bait and still kill the target, but right now we don’t have very many pilots online, and knowing that the Tengu pilot undoubtly has two or more likely three equally dangerous friends a single wormhole jump away keeps us from doing anything too drastic.

The tengu then decides to warp down to the center of the system, near the sun, where he can be located even more easily.

“He should have named his ship ‘I Am Not Bait. At all.’,” comments CB. “That would have fooled us.”

The Tengu waits a bit longer, then warps back to the wormhole. And sits. Then warps back to the sun. And sits. Then back.

This goes on for a bit.

“He needs to try something new,” says Pax. “Maybe he’ll try taunting us in the Local channel.”

“Does that ever work?” asks CB.

“Sadly, yes,” replies Pax.

It seems our aussie expert is bang-on with his prediction; 30 seconds later, we see the pilot break radio silence and beg us to come out for a fight. We don’t answer, and less than a minute later the Tengu pilot jumps back to his home system, followed shortly thereafter by the Helios and Buzzard.

“Dangerous, but not patient,” Pax observes.

Indeed. In about the time it takes to warp to a tower, switch ships, and warp back to the wormhole, I see another set of flares, and this time the ships coming through are much larger — all piloted by the rest of the hunters we’d suspected were waiting to ambush us if we took the bait. A Dominix, Typhoon, and Raven battleship jump back and forth through the hole to destabilize and destroy our connection, and I count all our previous suspicions confirmed: sometimes too much paranoia is just enough.

We linger in hopes that the pilots screw up the mass calculations for the hole and strand one of their pilots without backup, but the job’s well done, the wormhole collapses with no enemy in sight, and our system is quiet once again. It would have been fun to get into a good fight, but knowingly starting off outnumbered and outgunned only sounds brave and daring if you win.

The rest of the time, it’s just stupid.

Life in a Wormhole: Stormy Weather #eveonline

“Bid for this wormhole is up to 300 million.”

“Bored yet?”

“You have no idea.”

Ty’s on his way home, post-roam, after cleaning up some assets and moving them out of backwater systems where they’ve been gathering dust. Bre, on the other hand, is reorganizing her paperclip drawer while idle and cloaked in the abandoned wormhole system she found the day before. It takes a special kind of activity to make someone envy the guy who has 27 jumps to make before he can get home, and it looks like she’s found it.

It also gives her more than enough time to poke around the corporation’s Science and Industry interface.

“Hey, this says that Gor’s Tornado blueprint research is done.”

“I can haz Tornado?”

“If there’s enough materials in the tower, yeah.”

“Sweet.”

The Minmatar Republic ship designers like to name their battlecruiser and battleship designs after destructive forces of nature: Cyclone, Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest, Maelstrom — the Tornado is a sexy new addition to the family. Although Ty was born Gallente and spends a fair amount of time herding flights of drones and swearing under his breath, he’s been spending more and more of his waking hours in rusty earth-toned Minmatar hulls, and has been rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the new toy Gor’s been researching: the Republic’s answer to the shiny Gallente Talos he flew the day before.

I think I'll call mine Sokka.

Unfortunately, there’s a note from Gor pinned to Ty’s door when he gets back to the tower, listing off the materials he’s currently lacking to actually build the ship. Ty’s more than willing, however, fix that problem… if it means a new Tornado.

Our connection to Low sec space is already open, but while there is quite a bit of high-bulk tritanium available in stations just outside our wormhole, and the system we’re connected to is close to a larger market with more of the rare ores, there are many low security systems and gates in the way.

Berke offers to solve that problem while Ty takes his Mammoth out for a couple loads of tritanium, switching from his Orca to the nimble and stealthy Crane transport. All the skills he’s been training in an effort to make the bulky Orca move a bit faster serve him well in the Crane — he reports it’s like switching from a river barge to a sports car — the blockade runner dances away from gate camps and gankers with ease.

Or so he reports as he arrives back in the home system with all the rest of the ore required to make not one but two Tornado hulls. All in all, the hauling back and forth took up most of the evening, but it feels like time spent productively.

Even for Bre-the-Bored, who reports that bidding on the wormhole system has “sped up a little bit”, and now stands at 700 million isk. Oh my.

Life in a Wormhole: Fire the Wave Motion Gun #eveonline

Sure enough, Ichi is chortling when I log back into the home system the next day. Apparently, he happened to be around just as Pax sprung his trap for the capsuleers who had been using our system as a freeway out to known space, and got to partake in the ritual destruction of a couple expensive tech2 haulers that bumbled into a warp disruption bubble Pax anchored to catch the laden ships. I congratulate the both of them on the kill, and smother my envy.

I find it always helps to distract myself with shinies, and conveniently that’s an option tonight, as I’ve completed training all relevant skills to a level I feel is mandatory before sullying the cockpit of my new Vagabond heavy assault cruiser, which means I can bring her back home. A quick hop out into low sec space, a short jaunt to our corporate offices, a few minutes to get everything up to spec, and the Girl Genius takes her maiden voyage.

Unfortunately, the vagabond is an inappropriate ship to bring to the stuff we have planned today. Our pilots are going on a null sec roam with another wormhole alliance with whom we somehow manage to maintain cordial relations, and Em and I have decided to tag along. The only problem is, we can’t decide what ships to fly, and end up proposing a half-dozen to each other without coming to any kind of decision.

“I should take the Talos that Gor made me,” I said. “Not much use shooting sleepers, and it’d be a shame to see it gather dust.”

“DUDE,” says Em. “I’ll totally fly one if you do.”

“They’re brand new shiny ships,” I point out. “Everyone and their robot dog is going to be calling them primary target if they see them.”

“Yyyyyyup.”

A few seconds pass.

“All right. Let’s do it.”

“Awesome.”

We get fit appropriately and head toward the mustering point, admiring our ships’ shiny hulls and the prison-shiv aesthetics of their design.

“These things are going to look so pretty,” I say, “when they explode.”

“Yyyyyyup.”

A few comments are made by the FC and a others at the appearance of shiny new Talos battlecruisers in the fleet, but they’re our ships to lose, and everyone soon forgets we’re even flying anything odd.

It isn’t long before I notice that this roam is quite a bit different than those I’ve been on with Red versus Blue. For one thing, the fleet commander is sober, but more noticeably the ships in this fleet aren’t all fit with a half-dozen sensor boosters so the pilots can lock and destroy a target before anyone else even gets a shot off — which is something of a hallmark of RvB fleets, where I could probably fly my Talos around for most of the night and never fire a single round. However, with this group, not only are Em and I able to lock and fire on most of the targets, the impressive firepower the Talos brings to field means that our opening volleys are just as often the closing volleys (especially in Em’s case, as he has considerably more experience with the Gallente hybrid turret platforms than I do). Many people have called the four new battlecruiser models glass cannons, but some have been emphasizing the “glass” part, and not the “cannon” part, and that’s a pretty major oversight.

In short, Em and I have a pretty good time with the roam, and discover that an excellent defense against getting your shiny ship blown up is to blow up the other guy first.

I'll call it the Battleship Yamato tactic, and it works remarkably well.

Meanwhile, back in the system, the pilots not on the roam have been scouting, and locate an abandoned class two wormhole system that really has no business being abandoned — between the persistent connections to high-sec and class four wormhole space and the really fantastic array of resource planets, it’s a real find for any corp that settled there. Honestly, if it weren’t for the Rorqual we’d have to leave behind, I’d almost want to move in myself. (Not *myself*, obviously: I have no intention of leaving either my corp or the other pilots in our home system behind — they’re a resource far more rare than a good system.)

Our resident real estate agent apparently has the same idea I do, and while Berke runs out in his Orca to sell corporate loot and help a new Walrus recruit (Tweed) move his ships in, Bre slips over to the empty system, sets up a tent, and sends a EvEMail to our tried-and-true wormhole broker. She’ll probably spend a few days twiddling her thumbs with nothing to do, but the great resources and connections should make the time worthwhile.

Life in a Wormhole: If You Open a Door, Something May Walk Through #eveonline

Cabbage reports that we have an additional wormhole in our system, beyond the two that we always have. Entrance number three is an inbound connection from another class two system. I poke around a bit, but things look quiet. A bit of scanning helps me put things in context. Like our own system, our visitor’s home has two persistent wormhole connections: in our case, it a connection to low security known space and one to class two wormhole space; in their case, it’s a connection to class-two wormhole space… and a static connection to null sec.

Some wormholes are harder to get out of than others.

I’d be guessing, but my suspicion is the capsuleers were simply looking for a better connection to known space than their own, perhaps to grab some fuel, since it doesn’t look as though they actually *do* very much in their system — Sleeper anomalies are cleared out, but there is a wealth of more rare signatures cluttering up the sky.

We’re a little short on time, but Cab and I decide to take advantage of the open connection to make a little profit, and in less than an hour clear about 100 million isk (MIsk? MIskies?) out of their hole.

“They opened the connection,” Cabbage comments, “they should have figured we’d use it.”

Hard logic to argue with, and I don’t have much time to do so, anyway, as it’s time to get going. Just as I’m logging off, however, Pax is logging in and getting an update from Cabbage.

“People flying haulers through our system, eh?” Pax muses. “You don’t say…”

I expect there will be a story to hear when I get back, and I have to say I envy him — the money’s nice, but it’s been a long while since we’ve had a good tussle with anyone, and I for one am starting to miss it.

Life in a Wormhole: What if they Gave a War and Nobody Came? #eveonline

Hurrah, we’ve had war declared on us again. Contrary to the ominous tone of this announcement, the mood within the home system seems curiously unaffected.

"Wardec? Huh. What's on TV?"

Granted, I might be a bit removed from any terror and tension this news elicits, as I’m currently off in the wilds of the midwest, but I don’t think that’s the case. The fact of the matter is that a typical ‘griefer’ wardec is kind of a pointless thing when you live in a wormhole, since most of the professional habitual wardeccing corps are only doing it so they can attack your ships when you’re in some major trade hub — usually only ONE of the major trade hubs (Jita) — they can’t even be arsed to cover three or heavens forbid all four of the main market systems in game.

So you’ve got a wardec? Stay in the wormhole for a week and make a bunch of ISK by running sites. That’s what we do anyway. Just don’t go out into known space where someone can have a Locator Agent find you, or if you must do so, get there through some other wormhole’s connection and avoid the trade hubs.

Bottom line? For a wormhole corp, the typical wardec is about as troublesome and terror-inducing as road construction that blocks off your normal route to work. I’m sure there are groups out there that know exactly how to make a wormholer’s life difficult, but these guys aren’t it.

Anyway, after a long and restful time with family (seriously, stop laughing), I’m back home and ready to make some iskies. Our connecting class two system is pretty barren, but I scan down a Class Three system that’s connected to that boring class two, and it is both thick with sleepers and largely abandoned, making it a good choice for a little Sleeper shooting.

One of our aussie pilots, Pax, is willing to come along, and while we’re not as familiar with the different ship types and waves of attackers in the Class Three wormholes, they don’t prove much more difficult than the homicidal, sentient, killer ships we deal with every day. Our time is fairly limited, and we’re only able to hit about eight sites before it’s time to wrap it up, but our brief run nets us a cool quarter billion isk, which is a pretty good haul. We need to see about moving into a higher-class system at some point.

Eve Online: My Year in Review

This is going to be one of those posts that isn’t time-delayed, due to the subject matter.

I just noticed that I started playing Eve one year and one day ago. January 22nd, 2011 marked my return to EvE to give it another try after failing to find anything of interest over four years previous.

It’s the fact that both of my main characters are only a year old that makes me kind of shake my head in bemusement every time someone asks me for any kind of advice, and why I rarely give any advice or write guides.

So if you’ll indulge me a moment, I’d like to take a look at where I am and what I’ve managed to accomplish.

Characters

  • Ty, my first main, has focused mainly on cruisers and battlecruisers. He can fly a battleship if needs must, but so far at least it really hasn’t been his thing. His skills focus mostly on Gallente and Minmatar ships (with a distinct preference for Minmatar, though he’s Gallente himself), but he can fly passably in pretty much any race’s ships, and suspect he will eventually be able to fly all the sub-capital ships of all four races. The thing I’m most happy about with his progression so far is getting to some major goals right at the end of the year with the advanced cruisers. Ty can fly both Minmatar and Gallente Heavy Assault Cruisers, Recon Cruisers, Logistics Cruisers, and Strategic Cruisers. I’ve still got a ways to go to full mastery on several of the more recent acquisitions, but I’m past the point where I’m embarassing myself by sitting in one with a booster seat on to get my head up even with the steering wheel. My main goal with him in the coming year is to really master the cruiser hulls — Level Five in All The Things, as they say. We’ll see how that goes.
  • Bre, my second main, is a bit of a weird bird. She started out as a scanning alt, but with a big skill point boost thanks to being the character I made up four years ago, she quickly drew even to Ty in skill points and demanded some projects of her own. She’s pretty solid in science, research, and electronic warfare of all kinds, but my personal project was her was frigates, and I saw that goal reached about the same time Ty got his cruiser goals met: Bre can fly every single race’s frigates at level five, and can fly all the tech2 variants of those frigates as well, from Interceptors to Assault Ships to Electronic Attack ships to Stealth Bombers. In addition, she has the support skills to complement those types of ships, and can use the tech 2 versions of every type of weapon system that can logically be fit to any of those ships.  If it’s small and fast, she’s pretty damned good at it.
  • Berke came to the party a bit later than the other two, and he had one purpose: to fly an Orca. I wanted someone to follow Ty and Bre around as they wandered around New Eden, hauling extra fittings and spare ships like a one-man caravan, and Berke was that guy. But when we moved into wormholes, priorities changed and Berke, who’d gotten quite good enough at Orca and other industrial piloting by that point in time, branched out into other useful support skills: he’s recently gotten all the advanced Leadership skills to a high level, and between that and some of his more esoteric skills (he can’t fly a combat ship, but he’s a dab hand with a tower gunnery array), he’s become a real asset — a great booster for a fleet of any kind. He’s my team player, my never-asks-for-a-thank-you guy and, in all seriousness, a hell of an Orca pilot.

What We’ve Done

I didn’t come into EvE saying “I want to live in a wormhole,” but I’m really glad that that’s how things worked out. Our corporation colonized a system, then joined a larger alliance and, through them, met our new friends in the Home System. It’s a situation I might have hoped for with no real expectation that it could happen in a cutthroat game like EvE, but it did happen, and I’m lucky for it.

Between Ty, Bre, and Berke (scanning Orca FTW), I’ve visited over 400 wormhole system in a little over half a year. I’ve made… well, a lot of ISK, and spent almost as much. I’ve even helped defend our system from invaders, blearily watching the scanning window for any sign of enemy activity in the wee hours of the night (more on that in a few weeks).

TL;DR: I’ve had a pretty damned good time.

Life in a Wormhole: A Few Days of Normal #eveonline

One of the upsides of losing your salvaging ship is that you have a legitimate excuse when it comes time to decide who’s going to be responsible for melting down the wrecks you and your crew have left floating in your wake and doing all the math to split up the profits.

“Sorry guys, my ship is space dust,” is damned hard to argue with. I should have thought of it sooner.

Luckily, there’s a job for everyone when it’s Sleeper shooting time, and after a few days of quiet I, Em, CB, Gor, and Ichi spend a good evening of Sleeper explodifying for 126 million isk. It feels good to pocket some profit, and after a break, I log back in and look for something else to shoot. The other American pilots are offline, but Cabbage is on and more than willing to clear out our local infestation (like cockroaches, these things), and (this time) both the shooting and salvage go smoothly.

It’s a fine send-off, as I need to pack up and head for holiday fun time with family and friends in the lands where the men are men and the internet is sketchy-at-best.

To be honest, I'm kind of looking forward to it. No, really.

I queue up a couple skills that will take a nice long time to train, make sure the tower fuel is topped off, and tell everyone not to get their ships blown up in particularly funny ways until I get back, then it’s off to the airport.

When I land, there’s an email from Em.

“We’ve been wardecced again.”

Thankfully, She is Willing to Kiss a Wookie

I like to tell people that I met my wife on an MMO, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Technically, she and I both frequented a forum about an MMO that we both played, and she noticed that I’d quoted both Buffy and Gilmore Girls in a short bit of fluff fiction I’d posted, then commented on that fact and complimented my good taste. Unlike your typical cliche, that initial conversation didn’t inevitably bloom into some long-distance virtual romance; let’s say we were aware of each other and our mutual presence in the game. We didn’t exactly matriculate in the same circles, but the circles we did inhabit overlapped in Venn Diagram fashion, we sometimes found ourselves inside that overlapping elipsoid at the same time, and those moments of casual contact were, in my memory, always positive ones.

It wasn’t until we met face to face that the fireworks went off.

Still, she was in New York, I was in Denver, and while we were dating, it wasn’t as though we could see each other every weekend (though we certainly tried). During those two years, we supplemented phone calls and a downright irresponsible number of flights back and forth with ‘date nights’ together on that first MMO and, not that much later, Lord of the Rings Online; I playing the stoic bearded dwarf guardian and she with her elven orc-hunter. Good times.

Good times which we were happy to continue when we finally got married and she moved to Denver — it may not be that sexy-sounding, but we had a lot of good times and long laughs over stuff we were doing in LotRO.

Then came Sean.

Now, I’ve gone through gaming-with-a-baby before — I got Kaylee to drift off to sleep more times than I can count with the soothing white-noise pulse of my City of Heroes fire tank’s damage shield — but I won’t lie to you Marge: this time around, it hit our online gaming time hard. The stuff we typically did was a lot more involved in LotRO than my time had been in CoH, and there was basically no point in trying to play with only one hand free while you hold a bottle in the other. One of the reasons I’ve played EvE so much in the last year (I started an account a few weeks before Sean was born) was the simple fact that I could do almost everything in the game with just my mouse hand.

And forget raiding and other group activities — just forget it. If it’s just the two of us together, we can do some things, but forcing other folks to sit around and twiddle their thumbs because we have a sudden formula-related emergency? Neither of us were comfortable with that, and every time we tried to make it work, the whole evening left us more exhausted, frustrated, and stressed out than we had been when we started.

That sort of end result is usually not why a person plays a game.

So it has been a year, now, since Kate and I have really had any time to just… screw around on our computers, playing a game, together.

It sucks.

Enter Star Wars: the Old Republic, which we are — perhaps foolishly, perhaps optimistically — trying to play. Together.

In its favor is the fact that we both love the stories bound up in Bioware games like the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, and SWTOR seems to have done a great job delivering that kind of experience in an MMO. Also, we have a fondness for the setting, which doesn’t hurt at all — even my daughter has managed to finagle herself a few characters to play when she has time. An unexpected plus is the fact that we hardly know anyone playing the game, so we don’t feel obliged to log on every night, keep up with everyone’s leveling pace, or join in on group content when it’s not very, very convenient to do so.

Working against it is the fact that at its heart, it’s an MMO just like any other, with some mechanical requirements (two hands free, preferably no screaming children in the background when you try to talk on voice chat) that still present challenges. It’s tough.

(Also working against it: Technical support that is nothing but pure, liquid excrement blasting in your face with the strength of a fire hose stream.)

But we shall see. It’s been over a month since we started playing, and so far our highest level characters are… level 12 out of a possible fifty. Kate has managed to actually run a few missions on the second planet: the SWTOR equivalent of talking to her first contact in Steel Canyon, or finally reached Bree. That’s not the best rate of progression in a month.

But at least we get to play together, sometimes, and that’s pretty good.

Life in a Wormhole: Not So Smart #eveonline

“Cha-ching.” Bre is chortling to herself, as she’s just closed the deal on a second wormhole sale in less than a week. I need to change her corporate title from “Recon” to “Real Estate”. Still, it’s good money for her and for paying off the “Customs Office” project so that they can start generating cash flow into the ‘system wallet’ for special projects.

I’m on my way back into the system from yesterday’s corporate asset reorganization, stopping only long enough to pick up various blueprints for Ichi. I’m not entirely sure what he’s up to, but judging from the contents of the canister in my hold, I’d guess a bit of invention aimed at designing blueprints for Manticore stealth bombers. I approve.

Also, I lied: the blueprints aren’t the only thing I stopped for. Having gotten close to mastering most Leadership-related skills, Berke’s looking for a good way to share those bonuses with the fleet when his Orca isn’t appropriate to bring along. After some pondering, he’s settled on flying a custom-built Tengu strategic cruiser for the purpose, running no less than six fleet boosting modules simultaneously. Again, I approve, but since Berke’s focused mostly on industrial and leadership skills, his training path for a Tengu is going to be a long one, and he’s got an extensive shopping list of skill books he’s going to need on the way. I’m happy to pick them up for him, and deliver the lot just as CB logs in looking for something to do.

The home system is quiet, but we’ve got a reasonably well-stocked class two system next door, with inhabitants that don’t seem particularly interested in what we’re doing, or in defending their territory — we’ve tried baiting them into an engagement, but all they do is log in for a few minutes to update training queues, check email, and make sure all their Planetary Command Centers are still churning. Yawn.

Still, even if they don’t want to play, there’s still money to be made, so Cabbage, CB, and myself hop into pointy ships and start blowing up sleepers, clearing five anomalies in short order. By this point, it’s getting difficult for Cab to stay awake, as he’s down-under, so I volunteer for salvaging duties and jump back to the home system to reship into the Catalyst destroyer I use for the purpose. There’s a Noctis industrial salvaging ship in our hangar as well, which is generally better at such things than a retasked destroyer, but it seems like a bit of overkill for only a few sites, and more to the point it belongs to Gor and I’m not entirely sanguine about risking someone else’s rhubarb without checking in with them first.

Cabbage slips back to the home system, CB reships into a Cheetah covert ops boat to keep an eye on d-scan for me while I’m melting down Sleepers, and things proceed quite —

Oh bugger.

Unfortunately, Cabbage logged off as I started clean up. This has an annoying consequence within our little fleet — since he’s not a member of our gang anymore, any of the Sleeper ships on which he got the final blow have now been flagged as belonging to someone who has not given me explicit loot permission — it doesn’t mean I CAN’T salvage and loot them, but it does mean I can’t use the Catalyst’s tractor beams to pull in the scattered wrecks, forcing me to fly from one to the next in order to apply my relatively short-range salvagers, and effectively doubling the time this will take. A twenty-minute clean-up just turned into an hour-long slog. As an added bonus, this isn’t true for all of the wrecks, just some of them, and trying to figure out which is which is basically trial and error, as there are no visual indicators. Annoying.

Right. I roll up my sleeves and get to work, checking in with CB as I go. My lookout is doing his job, and reports any movement in the system, which includes a Badger hauler, Bestower hauler, and Heron scouting frigate appearing and then disappearing at the tower in rapid succession. It looks like someone just logged in all their alts in quick succession to take care of daily business, and I keep flying around from wreck to wreck, doing my thing. In all but one case, the battlefields are far enough from the tower that I won’t show up on the local’s directional scan, and even if I did, their PvP history does not suggest we need to worry about them very much. I keep at the salvage and loot process, watching the hold fill up with a surprisingly good amount of the really good stuff like melted nanoribbons.

The thrill of good loot is undeniable.

I’m about halfway through the fourth site of our five when CB announces Combat Scanner Probes on scan. My first thought is that the Heron recon frigate didn’t log out, but instead warped out of range of our sensors and launched probes.

“You want to get out?”

“In a sec,” I say. “Got one more Battleship to melt down, and this site’s done. Anyone flying a crappy little Heron around either isn’t going to find me very fast, or will have to reship before he comes in. We’ll see him.”

CB’s response is very persuasive, if a little bit abrupt.

“Loki on scan!”

Now, a Loki strategic cruiser is an entirely different ball of twine. First, the ship can both scan and bring plenty of DPS to an impromptu ambush. Second, the advanced nature of the craft — in contrast to a Heron — indicates a pilot that could easily possess the skills to locate my destroyer quickly.

Very quickly indeed, it turns out, as the Loki lands almost on top of my destroyer as I’m turning and aligning to warp out a safe spot. The cruiser’s autocannons make short work of the unarmored destroyer, and I warp only my escape pod free, rather than an entire ship. Dammit.

CB and I retreat to our home system to analyze what happened, which obviously puts most of the blame firmly on my own shoulders. Pro tip: when you have a lookout posted, and he announces evidence of hostile intent, get the hell out. I needed to be reminded of that simple lesson, and the loss of the destroyer (and all those shiny nanoribbons destroyed in the explosion) will help ensure it sticks. Yes, if we had prevented the problem with Cabbage logging out we would have been done salvaging before the Loki even showed up, and if I hadn’t had to fly from one wreck to the next instead of using a tractor beam, I could have stayed aligned to a celestial and ready to warp out, as I usually am. But while that’s true, it’s all coulda-shoulda-mighta; come right down to it, I just didn’t get out when my scout told me to.

A least I didn’t use the Noctis; that would have been a much more expensive and painful lesson.

A bit more research reveals yet another lesson I could stand to learn. I was relaxed and dismissive of threat because of the poor record and generally negligent attitude of the local pilots, but it wasn’t a local pilot who got my ship. The combat record for my assailant — an independent hunter roaming through Anoikis — is, in a word, stellar: a long list of solo kills in wormhole space against the overconfident and unwary. I am, in fact, his third kill TODAY: the first two were in some other wormhole system (probably one he came through to get to the one where he found us), and occurred over two hours apart from one another. In other words, he blew up a ship and then waited, patiently, until that pilot’s cohorts decided he had given up and dropped their guard… then he killed another one.

Am I angry at this guy? Hell no: I’m taking notes.

Still, his evident patience is a caution flag on any further activity, and I don’t like our odds for trying to hunt down a cloak-capable strategic cruiser flown by an obviously skilled pilot — it sounds like a good way to waste a few hours in frustration, so we chalk the whole mess up under Lessons Learned and head out for the night.

Life in a Wormhole: One of the Little Days, One of the Big Days #eveonline

It’s been a quiet couple of days in the home system. People have been in and out, but I keep hearing rumors of some other MMO that’s got folks all giddy and since I can’t get into the early access yet have better things to do, it’s just been me and a few other pilots puttering around and clearing a few Sleeper anomalies as they crop up locally.

This holiday season has got a very Star Wars-y feel to it.

But after a few days of that, I get a bit stir-crazy and go poking into our neighboring systems within unknown space. Hello, what’s this? Another abandoned system like the one Bre sold last week? One that clearly hasn’t been touched by anyone for weeks and weeks? Why yes, yes it is. The system is positively overflowing with Sleepers to shoot and there isn’t an active tower in sight (which is odd, since it’s actually a pretty good system for colonization).

I could make some pretty good money just poking at this by myself, but I can’t stand to see money left lying on the ground (as it were), so I place a scanning alt character in the system in hopes of a future sale, then fire up a flare to let all of our pilots know about the riches that await. That evening sees everyone logged in and ready for some money making. We set up proper operations, with Shan conducting salvage and acting as lookout while the rest of us convert Sleepers into shrapnel and money. The end result of about two hours of flying is a bit over 650 million isk in profit, split between the pilots involved.

Since I hate splitting up the actual loot itself with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, I volunteer to haul all the bits and bobs out to a market to sell, then distribute the cash proceeds appropriately — anything else is like trying to have five people pay 13.95 for two large pizzas when all anyone has is twenty dollar bills.

Math: Threat or Menace?

While out in the known world, conveniently close to our old home base, I decide to move our corporate headquarters out of the system of Jel (our former stomping grounds) to a system with far lower rent. Jel is great, but paying 65 million isk a month for an in-station office is an awful lot of wasted cash for something you no longer use. Our new home (which I find after a bit of research and flying around) is closer to more markets, cheaper by a factor of over thirty, and isn’t as generally out of the way.

Once the office is properly set up, I open transport contracts with the player-run Red Frog Freight (which specializes in high-sec hauling services) to move all the stuff we want to keep, then sell off anything we’re truly not using, which unfortunately includes my Ishtar heavy assault ship.

Don’t get me wrong: the Ishtar is a great ship, and we’ve had some good times together, but for sleeper combat I’ve found it’s generally outperformed by the (much, much uglier) Gila cruiser, and I just can’t see the point in owning the thing if I’m never, ever, ever going to use it. It makes me a bit sad, since the ship is built on the Vexor-class hull, one my favorite ship designs in the game, but it’s still the best thing to do until I can figure out a better way to fit the thing.

Also, if I sell it, I can use the proceeds to buy a Vagabond heavy assault ship with virtually no buyer’s remorse whatsoever, which is basically a win-win for me. The Ishtar relies very heavily on drones for its damage and is rather anemic in the guns department (I know some pilots use it for PvP, but I can’t see myself doing that, and as a mission ship, it’s beat out by the Gila), whereas the Vagabond is a bit of a terror when fit with some cruiser-sized auto-cannons, and is generally a more entertaining ship to fly, since it’s so bloody fast. Zooooom. Say it with me. Zoooooooom.

Image by EveMonkey.
Random gunfire and overheated propulsion modules. Two great tastes that taste great together.

I’ve been looking forward to owning one for awhile, as the almost steampunk-like design of the thing appeals to me, and cuts the sting of selling the Ishtar substantially.

I can’t quite fit it the way I feel I must before I can risk it in PvP, however, so I leave it in the market up for now as an incentive to stick to my training plan for another week, and get ready to head back home.

SOPA and PIPA Damage This Site

Random Average will be back tomorrow.

Today, may I suggest you ponder how much of the internet that you use every day would or could be tampered with, damaged, or completely destroyed because of SOPA and PIPA? This site is on the list.

Don’t know what SOPA or PIPA are? Educate yourself. Learn more here.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a couple posts. See you then. I’ve got a few other sites, like fireflywiki.org, to black out.

Life in a Wormhole: Like a Weekend Camp-out #eveonline

In our early days of wormhole living, CB drew a comparison between that activity and weekend camping trips where you head out to some campground all of an hour from the nearest gas station.

“You’re technically out there on your own,” he explained, “except for the part where someone’s driving out to pick up more beer and ice after breakfast every morning.”

It’s been a long time since we’ve had any weeks like that — I’m much more likely to leave our system through a wormhole leading to more unknown space than I am to head to a market, and even when I open the connection to low-sec, I’m usually more in the mood to shoot someone than run out for more beer — but with the holiday downtime coming and some new pilots in the wormhole, I find myself planning yet another trip into known space, even though we were just there.

But first, I and Bre hit a few sites in the neighboring class two system, if only to give me something to carry on my way out as well as back in; I know more than a few truckers in real life, and the idea of ‘deadheading’ for part of the trip makes the whole thing seem like a waste. As it is, I’m able to sell off the spoils of some gas harvesting, as well as the loot from a couple radar signature sleeper sites, a few anomalies, and some gear we no longer use in the home system.

That done, I take the change jingling in my pocket and poke through the local markets. Moondog’s got appropriate ships for shooting things in the home system, but his mining/hauling alt is (sadly, I guess: I don’t mine) short a mining ship, and we’ve been nowhere near our home systems to go and pick it up, so I grab something appropriate and toss the parts in the hold to take back in as a holiday gift.

Also, there’s the matter of these two Talos battlecruisers that Gor built for CB and myself — we have everything we need to fit them in the home system, with the rather glaring exception of appropriately-sized guns (though only battlecruiser hulls, these glass-cannon ships sport battlship-sized hybrid weaponry, which neither CB or I make much use of, generally), so I hop over a few more systems and pick up 16 heavy neutron blasters and enough ammo to fire them for the 20 or 30 seconds the ship is likely to survive, then head home through a deceptively benign-looking section of low-sec.

Once it's all said and done, I'm glad to be back home, where it's safely uncivilized.

Life in a Wormhole: Holiday Spirit #eveonline

This is one of those times when it’s quite obvious I time-delay my posts.

It’s coming up on the holiday break in the home system and we’re all trying to get things taken care of before everyone’s afk and deep in the heart of No Internet Land (granted, that’s mostly just me).

Ty’s on the way home following the RvB ganked shenanigans, and Bre’s working on scanning down a good route for running ships out for necessary tower fuel. Her luck at finding an exit is poor, but on the other hand, she reports finding an abandoned system that might be a new dream home for an aspiring wormhole corp — the sort of system someone might pay quite well for. Since she sort of needs to stay in that system if she wants to sell it, she’s out of the fuel-route-finding project, which leaves it up to the rest of us.

Finding a decent route out takes the better part of a day, but eventually we nail down something useful and start stocking up in anticipation of both the holidays and the impact that certain other newly-released sci-fi MMOs will have on the play time of a few of our pilots.

I hear there's a new MMO coming around Christmas. Shh. Dont' ruin the surprise.

Gor does the lion’s share of the hauling on this one, and also brings in a new small minmatar control tower that Berke requested. Our orca pilot has some kind of crazy plan to carry around the tower in his ship’s roomy hold and use it when we hit systems so flush with resources that it will take a considerable amount of time to reap the benefits. The idea is to fly in and set up the bare bones tower as a kind of armored bivouac tent, running the orca as a supply, reshipping, and refitting hub inside the tower’s shields, staying more than a day if necessary, and then packing back up when it’s over and making the trip home through known space. It’s a little complex (at least until the new fuel cubes go into use), and probably won’t come up much, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Whether it’s profitable-interesting or expensive-explosion-interesting remains to be seen.

Once he’s back in the home system, Gor also surprises Ty and CB with early Christmas gifts in the form of a pair of the shiny new Talos battlecruisers he’s been working on. Dawww. Who says eve players are heartless?

Is that all the holiday magic? Not quite. After over a day of wrangling with a buyer (and a reluctant broker convinced Bre couldn’t get her asking price and then getting grumpy when it turned out she could), Bre manages to close a multi-hundred million isk deal for the class two wormhole she found. After a hefty seller’s fee for her solo effort, the rest of the money is donated back to the home system to help pay off the customs offices and the rorqual project (which has languished thanks to a serious absence of any actual mining opportunities).

Life in a Wormhole: Sneaking Out to Play #eveonline

It looks like another quiet weekend in the hole during the crazy holiday season, and my play time is still a bit limited, so I’m looking to maximize fun by blowing up ships in various amusing ways, and that usually means going along on a roam with Red vs. Blue.

I’ve been on two of these before, the first in an Arbitrator meant to provide fleet support for the pile of ships-fit-inappropriately-with-lasers, and the second in the same Arbitrator, since I didn’t want to deal with making another ship and I was a bit miffed at not getting it blown up the first time. Luckily (?) that wasn’t a problem on the second trip, so for the third roam I’ll have to come up with something else.

As will CB, who’s decided to come along as well. He brought along a Sabre interdictor on his-first/my-second roam, and discovered first hand out much people like to call such ships primary. This time, he’s looking for something a bit less expensive to fly.

Luckily, RvB has us covered, since the theme for the roam is destroyers. This class of ship (which falls in speed, size, and defenses somewhere between frigates and cruisers, with remarkably good damage output) is potentially some great fun, since they’ve gotten a number of big buffs in the most recent expansion and can be purchased and fit for very little ISK. Just what the doctor ordered. CB and I head out of the wormhole (moving cautiously even in highsec, since there’s still a wardec in effect), and get to the staging system of Rens. CB has a much easier time with this than I do, since Rens is actually where he recently made all of his jump clones — by the time I jump to an inexpensive clone and sneak over from the Sinq Laison region, he’s already got his Thrasher-class destroyer fitted and ready to go. I follow suit, and we’re all set.

Several other folks have written and posted videos about this particular roam, but I won’t let that stop me from a lengthy summary. With that said, I can give you the short version: fun and laughs were had, and we all blew up gloriously at the end — basically, that’s an RvB Ganked roam, Working As Intended.

When the fleet (lead and heavily populated by pilots from the EU and Great Britain, where it is quite a bit later and — I assume — much closer to Guinness o’clock) heads out, we’re boasting something like 100+ ships, mostly Thrashers like the ones CB and I have selected, but with quite a few of the incredibly high-damage Catalysts as well. The mood, like the fleet, is drunkenly cheerful.

As we roll along, a few trailing scouts report we’re being shadowed by a fleet from Sniggewaffe, the ‘training’ corp for the infamous Pandemic Legion. Their group is quite a bit smaller than ours, but they’re in considerably beefier ships with MUCH longer ranges. (Destroyers are many things, but they are not snipers.) Still, it looks like such a fight could be good fun, so the fleet commander tries to get them to engage. Unfortunately, the Sniggewaffe pilots seem to anticipate our every move, and avoid any engagement that doesn’t heavily favor their long-range, hard-hitting guns.

The RvB pilots quickly deduce that the Sniggewaffe guys must have a spy listening in on our voice comms, (which isn’t really that much of a deductive leap, as ninety percent of all the pilots in RvB are spy-alts from some other corporation), so the FC announces on our own comms that if the spy will simply sing some kind of appropriate holiday tune in comms, he will activate his Leeroy Jenkins ability and fleet-warp the lot of us straight into their optimal firing ranges.

The spy obliges, and we go into warp to a solo serenade from the other side’s fleet commander.

Unfortunately for the Sniggewaffe guys, we’d actually managed to locate their fleet with a cloaked scout, and were able to drop right on top of them at point-blank range, which gave us a huge advantage that led to the almost-complete destruction of their fleet. Still: good singing.

After that, we got back to a station where folks could repair damage (or replace ships if needed; CB and I were still fine, though CB had to go at this point). While the command crew were trying to figure out what to do next, someone noticed that CCP had just announced that they were sending out a CCP-piloted “try to kill us and loot our fancy ships” fleet, so we turned around and headed toward the likely muster point for said fleet (somewhere in Syndicate region) at best speed.

We spent a bit of time messing around with scouts spread far and wide, trying to figure out where the fleet would be, which was a bit unnecessary: when the CCP fleet was finally sighted it was only two jumps away. We got into the system and tried to get one of the CCP reps to get on our comms and sing, but none of them were feeling that brave. Ahh well — it’s not like we weren’t going to charge straight into their guns anyway.

Scouts reported that their ships had some pretty significant logistics support and were, like the Sniggewaffe group, fit with big, slow, long-range guns. Yay. 🙂

Once again, we got a warp in right on top of them and charged into battle, getting in as close as we could and orbiting at full speed to stay ahead of the big guns. A good defensive plan which worked well, but offensively we couldn’t put a dent in the battleships and started going after the logistics ships instead, which, while tough, weren’t going to withstand focused fire from over eighty destroyers for very long — their defenses started to fold, and it looked like we were going to do some real damage to their fleet.

That’s when a handful of stealth bombers from Agony Unleashed decloaked and bomb the holy hell out of the whole melee. The first two 30-kilometer-wide explosions took out most of the the RvB destroyers (leaving the heavily armored CCP pilots largely unscathed), a third mopped up all the escape pods, and that was the evening (at least for me).

Good stuff, and the perfect way to kill some time (and a half-dozen battlecruisers) in an amusing way.

Life in a Wormhole: Background Checks #eveonline

“One of your damned dirty fan-monkeys is clogging up our application inbox.” Em’s voice is loud and accusatory — probably joking, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. She gets a little confrontational when she’s processing stuff in the Rorqual; I think the escaping ore compression gasses get to her.

Or maybe she gets to them. Or maybe she can’t get to them. Did she pick the wrong day to quite sniffing Bistot? What if —

“Ty!”

“Jesus! What?” I blink, replaying the last few seconds of the ‘conversation’. “Oh, right: damned dirty fan-ape, clogging up the… whatever.”

“Fan-monkey,” she replies. “And application inbox.”

I rub at my face, still trying to wake up. “I dunno what that is.”

“You would if you accepted new pilots into your corp,” Em grumbles. “Ever.”

“Yes, I should do that.” I flip a few switches and deploy probes for a system scan. “Except I can already get all the same benefits via casual, semi-consensual, unprotected sex with suspected felons… and there isn’t any paperwork.”

“Slacker,” she replies almost automatically. “Also I hope you’re joking.”

“Don’t worry,” I busy myself with scanning, trying to keep my voice even. “I don’t bring anything back into the wormhole with me.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“I mean, I don’t use all the different bodies out in known space just for dangerous combat…”

“Don’t want to know.”

“I call that particular one my ‘jump clo –‘”

“I DON’T –” Em cuts in as I start laughing — “want…” I hear her sigh over the comms. “Can we talk about this fan-monkey applicant? I’m sending you the file.”

“I don’t have fans,” I reply. “Or, sadly, monkeys.” I tap the blinking message indicator and scan the attachment. Technically, Em and I are in different organizations, but we’re part of the same alliance and live in the same wormhole, our people counting on each other for damned near everything, so in general practice we’re pretty open about our corporations’ day to day business. Em’s gotten more than a few applicants — even new members — that she’s never bothered talking to me about, and I trust her judgement in hiring them, but I can see why she sent this one over. “Oh. Tweed.”

“Yes,” says Em, speaking slowly. “A fan.”

“Pfff.” I am nothing if not eloquent. “He’s asked me a couple questions. Pretty good ones, actually, if I remember right.” My probably-bad habit of chronicling our exploits in Anoikis and posting the results to public capsuleer sites had attracted some attention from time to time — usually good stuff like the messages from this Tweed — but I get tense when it comes this close to home. I obfuscate the information in my posts almost entirely to protect the pilots I fly with, rather than myself, and I don’t like it when that posting habit and our day-to-day operations intersect, even when it looks like a coincidence. “Did he apply to you guys directly? Cuz that would be bad.”

“Nope,” Em pops the end of the word. “Just the general alliance, after background checks, though it does look like he figured out it’s the one you talk about.”

“Yeah. That’s happened before.” I call up a few more screens, one to the alliance site and one to my personal journal, checking the backbone databases. “He’s sending the messages to you, the alliance, and to my site from the same locations, and we don’t have any enemies from around there. You talk to him?”

“A couple messages back and forth, no voice comms yet,” Em replies.

“What do you think?”

“What do you think?” Em counters. “You’re the word guy.”

I frown, knowing she’d say that, and scour all the different messages I can find, comparing word choices both for what they said and what they didn’t say. I can recall the time-lapsed ‘chats’ we’d had on my public comment boards, now that I’d had enough time to wake up, and digging through a Alliance comm log or two reminds me of something else.

“He’s been waiting out this application since…” I try some basic math, but give it up. “Months. Many months, actually. Been on tenterhooks a long time.”

Em makes an sound of agreement, but doesn’t say anything else. I stare out at the distant star — our star — and wonder what it would feel like to lose it. It’s a hard thing to imagine, but not impossible. Still…

“I like it,” I say, nodding to myself. “As much as I can like it, anyway. Feels legit.”

“I do too.” Em’s response is almost immediate. “Wanted to get your take, though. Anyone we bring in is going to affect everyone.”

“True,” I say. “And, thanks.”

“No problem. Also?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m totally blaming you if he turns out to be a spy.”


Corporate security is a pretty serious thing in EvE. Everything you have in the game came to you though time and effort (like most any MMO), and (unlike other MMOs) you can lose it — all of it — when your ship gets blown up or some other catastrophe strikes. Imagine LotRO if being defeated by a swarm of orcs meant you had to replace all your gear.

Then picture losing not just that gear, but all your backup gear, and the stuff that belongs to everyone else in your corp or alliance, because it was taken from you by another player whom you decided to trust more than they could be trusted.

And of course you never know how much trust is too much until after it’s been given.

Yet people still play, and they still invite virtual strangers into their groups. You do what you can to protect yourself, of course, but ultimately, you make a decision and you give a stranger some of your trust; you make another connection.

It’s an MMO — that’s the point.

Welcome to the family, Tweed.

Life in a Wormhole: A Taste of the Good Life #eveonline

It’s been well ove 24 hours since the fleecing of our neighboring class-two system, but the wormhole connection is still up. Very strange, as they typically only last 16 hours.

Oh, wait: it is a new wormhole, connecting to a new system, but the hole is in the exact same location as yesterday. Weird! (Though not unheard of amongst wormhole dwellers.)

The new system is heavily pruned, which I suspect is because some of our alliance mates connected here just two days ago from their home system and did a bit of sleeper maintenance — it certainly doesn’t seem like the locals are doing much of anything.

The system is thick with wormholes, if not sleeper anomalies, however, and I track down an outbound connection to Amarr high-sec (not terribly useful, since we’re currently under WarDec house arrest), an aging inbound from Low-sec (in the aptly named Solitude region of known space), an outbound to Class-One wormhole space, and yet another inbound connection from a Class-Two system like our own. I do a bit of poking around in the other wormholes, but both are similarly picked over.

Still, Moondog is online and looking for something to do that isn’t shooting Customs Offices. I’d like to oblige, and luckily I can — at least a little bit — as there is a single sleeper site up in our home system. I hop into my trusty Gila to join MD in his Harbinger battlecruiser and (with some missile-throwing assistance from Ichi) make short work of the site. Salvage is not great, and Ichi and I donate the proceeds to Moondog’s wallet to give him some spending money.

Moondog calls it a night, and I decide to make a quick run out through the high sec connection located in the neighboring class two system to pick up a new skillbook I’ll soon be able to train. Yes, a wardec’s on, but these habitually war-declaring corps tend to just camp out in high-traffic, centrally-located markets and watch for foolish or overly brave targets to wander in front of their guns — in practice, these things are never so much a war as they are a kind of vodka-soaked duck hunt.

"Tellya whut: we're gonna declare war, and you boys jus' do us a favor and float on by the winders here. Pa don't like to move much, if he kin help it."

In any case, my destination is the nearest “library” system, with piles of NPC-sold skillbooks on the market (usually, and not coincidentally, these system are often also one of the 20 or so ‘starter systems’ for new pilots, and about as safe and any system in known space is likely to be at this point). I swap the Gila for my nimble and more-importantly stealthy Cheetah covert ops frigate and head out.

The trip is comfortably anti-climatic (aside from the part where I buy the books, forget to move them from the station bays into my ship’s cargo hold, have to turn around and go back); I pick up Recon Cruisers (plus a few other impulse buys), and books for Em, Moondog, and CB, then head home, stopping just long enough to poke my head into the Class One system again in hopes of stumbling across a target. No luck, so I finish my trip, drop off the latest batch of textbooks, and call it a night.

Life in a Wormhole: Just Being Neighborly #eveonline

Two customs offices remain in our system, but we only have one replacement structure, so we leave the less-frequently-used planet alone and get to work blowing up the other, which takes little time as every active pilot is online and ready to be done with this organized vandalism.

Once that’s done, Ty’s jazzed to use the new scouting Proteus, and volunteers to scout out the connecting class two system and see what options present themselves for our evening’s entertainment. There’s a bit of mockery as Twilight Sparkle shows up on directional scan, but Ty’s secure in his own manhood and (to be honest) pretty darn happy with the ship.

The wormhole connection is quickly found and entered, and Ty finds himself in a system with one large and two small towers on directional scan. Despite evidence of some fairly heavy occupation, the system is poorly tended and overgrown with sleeper anomalies, Ladar-emitting gas clouds, and even a few uncommon Radar signatures. It’s shameful. Someone should call the HOA.

The flare goes up, and pilots assemble to do the right thing and clean up the new system — things just look so much nicer when they’re tidy, after all, and we’re very good neighbors.

Em, Ty, Bre, Ichi, and Clovis get to work with long range weed whackers, with Shan performing overwatch duties on both our wormhole home and the currently open connection to high security known space. Si salvages, and we knock out fifteen sites in about 90 minutes, for an estimated 300 million isk — the first profit many of us have seen in several weeks, thanks to weird schedules and poor wormhole connections.

"Some flowers will really help the Curb Appeal."

Our initial foray into the neighboring system was a good start, but Ichi is still concerned about how those untended Gas Clouds are going to affect local property values, so once the combat fleet breaks up, he, Ty, and Bre jump into harvesting ships (a Thorax-class cruiser and several Moa-class cruisers should do the trick) and head back over, with CB running overwatch in a Hound-class stealth bomber and Berke in his Crane-class transport to pick up the canisters of gas and haul them home.

Time is fairly limited, so we stick to the really valuable… ahh… that is say, the most overgrown clouds, and we’re all but done when CB spots a Helios-class frigate on d-scan, but it’s just sitting at the tower, and doesn’t stay on for long.

Our assumption is that the pilot logged on to update his training queue, took a few minutes to survey our outstanding landscaping efforts, and then quickly closed down EvE so he could write us a nice thank-you.

Completely understandable.

Life in a Wormhole: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. #eveonline

Ty’s gotten it into his head to pick up a Proteus-class strategic cruiser. Though the ship is pricey, his reasoning is atypically sound; he does a lot of the scanning and scouting in the corp, he’s most likely to make first contact with some enemy ship, and while his cheetah can disrupt a target’s engines, its single autocannon isn’t likely to put an end to much of anything before reinforcements arrive or he runs out of ammunition. On the other hand, a properly configured Proteus can scan quite adequately, warp around while cloaked for covert recon, ignore some of the more annoying traps that lurk around enemy towers, protect itself with a very tough tank, and (while not the heaviest hitting configuration of the highly versatile ship) pack more than enough punch to ruin the day of many ships it might stumble upon in its travels.

He’s been debating the purchase for a couple days, weighing the pros and cons of a Proteus-class versus a Loki-class cruiser, as he can fly both, but while the Loki looks like a lot of fun in less sneaky configurations, when it comes to scouting around and mugging the unwary, the Proteus seems to have the clear advantage.

He’s off to highsec for some shopping, exiting the wormhole alongside Gor and Wil, who are running out to pick up battleships more appropriate to the task of Customs Office bashing — perhaps unnecessary, as we only have three of the structures left to destroy, but as they already have appropriate ships readily available, there’s not reason not to take advantage of the … convenient exit?

Actually, the exit doesn’t look that convenient after all, as once again we’re connected to high security empire space via a series of extremely high traffic low security systems, each one boasting roaming packs of pirates and taunting me with the impenetrable logic of their gate gun AIs and their tendency to follow each other really closely on Facebook. All it takes is one of them switching their relationship with you to “It’s Complicated”, and your whole day is ruined.

Still, thanks to a bit of misdirection and sashaying around like a wanton hussy to draw their attention, we’re able to distract the enemy pirates and give Gor and Wil enough of a window to slip a couple battleship through.

Meanwhile, Ty has scurried on home with his shiny new ship and decides to have himself a scan whilst pondering what to name the thing (always the most difficult decision). It looks like we have an incoming wormhole in addition to the persistent connections to lowsec and class-two wormhole space, so he hops through to find himself in a well-tended, fairly active-looking class one wormhole system with one tower on scan. Sweeping the d-scan around helps him find the tower fairly quickly, as there are few moons around which such a structure could be anchored in the first place, and soon enough he’s in warp.

… and landing right in a warp disruption bubble outside the tower.

It seems almost too convenient, but Ty finds himself in a situation for which this Proteus configuration was specifically designed, no more than 30 minutes after bringing it home — the disruption bubble is quite small, and the Proteus lands with quite a lot of momentum, thanks to the 1600 millimeter armor plates Ty’s bolted on. The ship coasts well inside the bubble, decloaking when it comes too close to the central device that actually generates the bubble.

Now visible, the ship becomes Target #1 for the nearby tower, and the guns open fire, but thanks to the modules Ty fitted (and to Gor for talking him OUT of one and INTO another), Ty can simply warp away, ignoring the effects of the bubble, then cloak up and return at an angle that will keep him out of trouble.

Once back in range, Ty spots a familiar name on overview and announces to the rest of the corp that the tower’s owned by none other than the Germans with whom we once shared a wormhole. (Though obviously this new tower doesn’t care much about our generally friendly past.) As the default diplomatic… umm… person, Ty opens a hailing frequency with our old contacts to say hello and make sure we aren’t going to get in each other’s way for the rest of the evening — the pilots in the Home System have some Customs Office bashing to do, and it would be nice if we didn’t have to worry about being jumped by former allies.

The pilot (possibly the only one in the system, as it’s a medium-sized tower with a fairly bare bones layout) is entirely willing to leave our system alone provided we do the same (not much temptation there, as he obviously keeps a tidy house), and Ty waves and heads back home.

Once back at the tower, he reluctantly reships into something bashier, and the fleet assembles for another round of Bullet Time Urban Renewal. There’s some discussion about what to name the Proteus, especially since Ty’s already used “That There Ship” for his Maelstrom, but it’s CB who provides the obvious answer: what else are you going to name a strangely-hued ship with nigh-magical powers and a quiet demeanor that you have to do a lot of studying to understand?

All hail the USS Twilight Sparkle.

Life in a Wormhole: In Which I Hate Low-sec #eveonline

I log into a new notification that some alliance is declaring War on us. Again.

Again? Do I mean “we’re being wardecced again” or “it’s an alliance that’s already wardecced us, back for another swing”?

Answer: Yes.

Unfortunately, yes.

Le sigh.

Okay, so let’s make our preparations! Thankfully, there isn’t anything to do in terms of system supplies, since the last wardec dropped not that long ago.

Unfortunately, it does mean that the last of our corp mates who isn’t yet ready for wormhole life needs to be booted out of the corp again so he doesn’t become a target while puttering around known space. Pity, as we just got him back in a few days ago, after the last wardec. Also, Moondog is on and wants to bring in his mining alt with some supplies, so it seems a very good idea to get that done before people are looking for us, and I set out to make that happen.

Tonight might be a little more complicated than MD’s original trip in, however, since we’re connected to a very busy area of lowsec. I scout the first of two stargates that he needs to jump through and find it camped in desultory fashion by a hurricane-class battlecruiser. There’s not much I can do about that in a scouting frigate, so I slip back to our tower and pick up a blackbird-class cruiser fit with a raft of electronic countermeasures that should make the hurricane unable to target anyone, let alone shoot them.

My plan is fairly simple: I’ll jump through the first gate, land about a hundred kilometers off the second gate, poke at the hurricane in the hopes it will try to engage me or at least sniff in my general direction, and once I’ve got him off the gate a good distance, MD can jump through and fly onward.

I proceed as planned, and fetch up about 110 km away from the gate, watching the hurricane circle the gate and waiting for him to notice me. He does so almost immediately, and after a bit of dithering about, swings around and starts burning my direction. I have no real hope of matching his speed, but that doesn’t stop me from wheeling about and flying away from him, mostly to pull him further from the gate.

As the distance between us dwindles (faster than I’d like), he gets a target lock and I start thinking about my options. Typically, a solo hurricane will have short range, high rate of fire autocannons fitted, but there’s a possibility — however slight — that he might be set up with slow, long-range, hard-hitting artillery cannons in the hopes of one- or two-shotting someone coming in through that gate. If that’s the case, he’s already dangerously close to the range where he can start applying that damage to my blackbird, a ship justifiably respected for its electronic warfare capabilities, but understandably mocked when it comes to its meager conventional defenses.

So, acting in what I believe are my own best interests, I acquire a target lock on the hurricane, tell Moondog to jump through and get moving, and hit the hurricane with my ECM modules.

Veteran low-sec warriors will already be shaking their heads and laughing at my mistake.

You see, virtually all of my PvP experience has been in null security and wormhole space.

In nullsec, there are star gates to navigate and gate camps to avoid, but there are no local police forces, no CONCORD, the space stations aren’t armed with sentry guns, and neither are the star gates. This is also (obviously) true in Wormholes, which go so far as to get rid of stations entirely and replace star gates with (un)natural wormhole phenomena. These are the situations I’m used to: you need to watch out for a pilot’s friends to come help (I am), but one thing you don’t usually have to worry about is interference from the environment.

This is not the case in low-sec space. There are still no police or concord forces, but there are automated guns on the stations and anchored around star gates, and they shoot at any troublemakers that cause a fuss within their (ridiculously long) range. The damage they deal can be handled if you’re in a sturdy enough ship, but even then it can really hurt.

And, as previously mentioned, I’m not in a very sturdy ship.

In theory, I knew about these things, but I wasn’t really thinking about them — they just don’t factor in my personal checklist of things to worry about in PvP. I’ve got bigger fish to fry: right now, I just want to shut this hurricane down.

As plans go, it isn't my best.

The problem is this: right now, the hurricane isn’t a troublemaker. HE didn’t shoot at me yet. Yes, he obviously intends to, but he hasn’t, so when I target him with Electronic jamming, I become the troublemaker with whom the gate guns are meant to deal.

They hit really hard.

Now, to my credit, I realize what I’ve done almost as soon as I activate the ECM, and immediately commence warping away from the gate. But even with my quick reaction, by the time I’m out of danger and hidden in orbit around a random celestial, my shields and armor are gone, my hull structure is groaning like like an old arthritic dog and… yeah… it appears I’m on fire.

In EvE, as in real life, one of the main rules for happiness is "Don't be on fire."

Still, at least I haven’t been followed by the hurricane. Some quick use of directional scan determines the battlecruiser’s pilot is back in orbit around his gate, and that the next gate I need to use is wonderfully clear of enemies, so I prod my poor blackbird into warp so I can get it back to the tower and repaired.

Veteran low-sec warriors will — again — be shaking their heads and laughing at my mistake.

You see, thanks to that whole “troublemaker” thing, I’ve been flagged with a GCC or “Global Criminal Countdown”, which prevents me from using any stargates for fifteen minutes following my nefarious behavior, so when I land on the gate, I am unable to jump and just sit there like an idiot. Again, I knew about this as a theoretical thing (it’s even something that that can sometimes affect you in null sec, I think) but, like being shot at by gate guns, it wasn’t something I’d ever experienced directly.

Also…

Well, there’s this saying we had when I was a kid, growing up in the wilds of the midwest: You can outrun the cop’s car, but not the cop’s radio.

Apparently, the gate gun AIs have been chatting, and the guns at THIS gate already have me on a “Shoot on Sight” list for the duration of the GCC. This, I’m ashamed to admit, I just didn’t know anything about at all.

The new guns make short work of what’s left of my blackbird. They have the decency to leave my escape pod alone, which gives me plenty of time to warp away and contemplate the scope of my (really, breathtaking) cockup, and how much I hate the security mechanics in Low-sec — a tepid mix of high-sec loophole jumping and nullsec danger, with few of the benefits of either. Bleh.

At least MD got his stuff into the wormhole. I wait out the rest of the GCC and join him and the rest of our cohorts in the wormhole.

We still have a lot to do that night, though none of it’s that sexy. It’s another evening of blowing up customs offices, and this time Moondog is able to stick around and join in which, while helpful, is a rather poor introduction to the excitement of wormhole life. Ahh well, can’t be helped.

Once everyone is home, we kill our lowsec connection to secure our system and switch into appropriate structure-bashing ships. Much envy is directed at the folks who fire lasers and, thus, don’t have to reload all the time. Eventually Custom’s Office #2 crumbles, and a tired cheer goes up.

At this point, several folks need to leave, but we were hoping to get office #3 down as well, so the remaining pilots reship yet again, looking for the biggest and boomiest guns we can fire. CB wins the lottery in this case, as Pax (from Cabbage’s corp) has one of the shiny new Tornado-class battlecruisers that just started rolling off production lines a few days ago, and while the Tornado is nice increase in the damage CB can inflict on an inanimate object, it’s not the best Pax himself can do, as he’s flying a Raven-class battleship built for exactly this sort of activity. The upshot of this is that CB gets to fly a shiny new ship (on loan), and we all get to take screenshots of it.

Out artistic picture-snapping passes the time as Customs Office #3 crumbles, and as it explodes, I call it a night.

Life in a Wormhole: In which we Multiply and Subtract #eveonline

CB is beside himself!

Technically, he’s beside himself three or four times, as he’s out in the Rens system, making multiple jumpclones for distribution throughout known space, but he’s also a little stressed about being back in highsec. I answer questions as best as I can, and try to comfort him as he moves from station to station in the heavily populated market system. His twitchiness is a common problem for anyone who stays out of known space for long stretches — you get hardwired to lock and fire the moment you see a neutral pilot on your overview, and when the overview is showing you a hundred viable targets, you can get a little tense.

The local chat channel for Rens isn’t helping.

“I feel like an old guy on a subway about 15 minutes after a metal concert lets out,” he comments. “Or Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.”

As CB deals with his identity issues, I comb through a backlog of evemails until I get to one from our old friend Moondog, who is announcing his intention to get with all this cool-kid wormhole business.

My timing is good; MD logs in just as I start drafting a reply, and rather than finish the message, I get him on voicecomms and start making arrangements to get him moved. He’s a tidy sort, shipping only the bare essentials with him — a good hauler, a scouting frigate, and the Omen-class cruiser what brung ‘im. Little more is needed, since Gor and I already have Harbinger-class and Prophecy-class battlecruisers sitting in the hangar with his name on them. (Literally.)

The only real concern is getting him safely into the home system, since our current exit to known space lies through a heavily-populated stretch of low security space with more than a few predators circling. I fire up a flare, and pilots from Walrus join me and CB and spread out through lowsec to get eyes in all the connecting systems — perhaps a bit of overkill, but it’s important to me to get our new bunkmate home in one piece. Losing a ship or ships while moving in is a bad way to get things started.

Still, the process takes time, and by the time we land at the tower and get Moondog moved in, he’s ready to be done for the night, so his first taste of wormhole hijinx will have to wait.

Not so for us, as Em has it in his head to start blowing up the NPC-owned customs offices and replacing them with our structures. The outlay for this little project has been fairly significant, so we’re going to pay the bill with a tax of our own on Planetary Interaction (still considerably less than what the NPC offices are charging).

We announce our intentions for the evening, and pilots start reshipping into vessels more appropriate for bashing structures into tiny bits.

The one nice thing: the customs offices aren’t surrounded by a force field sixty kilometers in diameter, the way player-owned towers are. This means that we can sit at point blank range to the customs office and bring high-damage, short range ships that would be useless if we were shooting a tower.

The result is a cluster of ships rarely seen for structure bashes, like the newly buffed-up, small-but-deadly destroyers, and a number of Gallente-made ships boasting short-range, high damage, heavy blasters.

The process isn’t fast, and it can’t be said to be particularly exciting, but it’s nice to have a project to work on with everyone in the system. Eventually the first of the customs offices comes down, and Em begins anchoring the new structure in its place, stamped with our alliance logo. Jobs a good’un.

By the time we’re done, the hour’s running late. We’ve got five more customs office to blow apart, but they don’t all have to go tonight. We make plans for another bash the following evening, and call it for the night.


Notes: Dayjob has returned to more normal levels of activity, contract work is done, other contract work is waiting on the client, and the novel line edits have gone back to the publisher! Happy New Year! Time to get back to some EvE!

Also, it appears that there are people out on the internets who don’t use RSS readers but DO know how to use email. These strange, venn-diagram-defying creatures have contacted me in accordance with the practices of their people, and requested some way of being notified of updates to this blog without the tedium of… you know… going and looking every day. Uncharacteristically, I have obliged them, via the stylish “subscribe via email” button, top-right.

I’ll get the requested fax and telex options implemented just as soon as I can.

Life in a Wormhole: Agency #eveonline

Strange kind of a day.

There’s a bit of a snafu when we get online, simply because a few of the things Gor expected to pick up in market simply aren’t available yet. Still, he picks up a couple of blueprints for battlecruisers (both new and old), and brings them back home where we can start to put them to use.

Best part of running errands now? The new warp effects.

First, we need to set up a research lab to start optimizing the blueprint designs, which I’m able to do with only a few quite minor tweaks to the tower’s power grid.

The few seconds that it now takes to anchor and online a tower module? So lovely. Dear CCP: Nice job, but I’d like four days of my life back — the time I spent putting up and taking down towers in the past.

Once the blueprints are cooking, we do a bit more maintenance around the —

— oh, who am I kidding? We spend at least an hour swapping in and out of all the ships that got new skins with the patch. So… pretty.

Once that critical work is complete, Gor logs and I have some time to admire our handiwork and take stock of the changes to our home system.

I’ve always been pretty happy with our tower set up, but the longer we work on the home system, the more I feel like we’re making true, full use of all the resources at our disposal. At first, most of what we did was shooting sleepers and selling their stuff. It had its challenges (especially while we got used to the raised difficulty, as compared to Known Space), but eventually we got the hang of it. Since then, we’ve built a rorqual, which lets us take much better advantage of the mining opportunities in wormhole space (assuming we EVER SEE ANOTHER MINING SITE), and with the new labs in place (and ship, ammunition, and drone factories ready to go online), we’re moving into some stuff we rarely took advantage of even out in known space. Exciting stuff.

Okay, perhaps not to everyone, but it’s exciting to us — it’s neat to be able to envision something in our home system and then make it happen — and it’s nice that wormholes really throw a little bit of everything at you and let you make use of all aspects of a character. It really is a collection of all the good stuff EvE has to offer with very little of the stupid cruft. (I’m looking at you, Sovereignty Mechanics.)

While I explore warp randomly around the system to look at the pretty warp effects, I notice one of the other changes that came out with the patch, in the form of destructible Interbus-owned structures that now orbit around all nullsec planets (let’s not ask how Interbus got ships into every corner of wormhole space). Em has already mentioned that the tax rates being levied by these structures are pretty painful to anyone who does major Planetary Interaction, and he’s out in known space right now picking up the supplies we will need to put up our own orbital stations… once we blow up the NPC ones (which is about to become a priority project for the next few days). It’s nearly a billion ISK investment, but it’ll easily pay for itself.

It’s just one more way in which we’re making the system more our own — more ‘how we want it to be’.

I do a bit of scanning while my fellow system-mates take care of business. CB is heading out into known space to set up a couple jump clones (he’s got proper shiny implants in his head now, and doesn’t want to lose them on a random weekend roam), and Em is on the way back with parts for our new planetary offices and fuel block blueprints that we’ll soon need for the tower — once he gets them back in, Bre goes to work researching and optimizing, then heads out to our known space home base to pick up a container of blue prints she’s been hoarding for months, muttering something about ‘pretty shiny lab facilities’.

There’s just a lot going on, and looking at it all is really interesting.

Both we and the Walrus guys have put up labs to start work on blueprints and production. Em and I are planning group activities in the form of blowing up those customs offices, and more than a few people are murmuring about a growing desire to shoot stuff, which I wholeheartedly support.

Then we’ve got Bre and CB out on their own projects, not to mention Gor starting up ship manufacturing again… and that’s ignoring the fact that I’m using my time to do some more exploration — never know when we’ll find another abandoned wormhole that someone wants to buy, after all.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine (Lee) who plays a lot of MMOs. He tried EvE not long ago and didn’t much care for it, and like another of my friends, wanted to understand the draw for me.

The best way I can describe it (thanks to a suggestion from another friend, who was talking about his daughter’s love of Minecraft) is “agency”.

People like to toss around terms for different kinds of MMOs — labels like “sandbox” and “theme parks” — and I suppose that’s fine; I’ve done the same in the past, in non-judgmental ways. I enjoy both types quite a lot.

But that term. Agency.

Agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.

I love spending time on Lord of the Rings Online. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy Star Wars the Old Republic.

But at the same time I know, going in, that I won’t be able to affect those games very much. One of the things I love about Bioware games is the way your relationships with important NPCs are different, depending on the choices you’ve made with them — it’s powerful, it’s interesting, and honestly it’s really the only way in which your experience in the game is going to be much different from anyone else’s experience in a game like Mass Effect (or, to be honest, SWTOR).

I can certainly affect the other people I play with (that’s rather the point), but otherwise? No. I can’t log into LotRO and set out to permanently reclaim Moria — to make it what it once was, or something better. That’s simply not an option, nor will it ever be an option. That’s fine, though — that’s not the kind of game it’s trying to be, and I already enjoy the game that it is.

Conversely, that sort of thing is exactly what EvE is about (and, to retain equilibrium, EvE is really rather terrible at the sorts of things LotRO is good at :)). That ability to make choices and impose (or at least try to impose) those choices on the world is what makes the game compelling to me; what makes it great, for a certain value of great.

Like most other things in EvE, wormholes are a pure distillation of that Good Thing. We have found our way into Moria through one of the many lost entrances, cleared one of the lesser halls, and set about rummaging through the old texts, dusting off lost relics, and killing any goblins (or other explorers) that get in our way. Hell, now we’re mining (hopefully not too greedily or deep), and with any luck some wondrous items of our own will start flowing out into the rest of the world.

Someday, it may all come crashing down, thanks to a more powerful group of explorers, or some cataclysmic event, or simple neglect, but for now, it’s ours — we made it — laid every stone and hammered every rivet, and there’s nothing else I’ve experienced in an online game that’s quite like it.

It’s Not Easy

The thing with EvE (and again, via that distillation, Wormholes) is nothing much happens if you don’t make it happen. If you don’t scan, you won’t have stuff to do. Nothing to mine. Nothing (or no one) to shoot. Hell, you can’t even leave.

There’s no agent ready to give you a mission with clear objectives. There’s no amusement park with a map to all the rides where you can just sit and enjoy the spectacle.

There’s sand. And some shovels. And some buckets. And some other kids. (Maybe, and what if there’s not?) That’s kind of it. You can make a castle, or you can sit on your ass and get a nasty sunburn. You can make ships or run out for blueprints or prep for carnage or mine or whatever you want… or spin the camera around you ship, renew your training queue, and bitch how there’s never anything going on.

That’s Agency: the fun is up to you.

Life in a Wormhole: Preparing for Change #eveonline

There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in EvE, and in anticipation of some of the changes, most of he wormhole pilots have set out into known space to pick up supplies or to station themselves in systems where new blueprints will be made available the following day.

I, an industrialist in name only, focus on moving tower fuel back to the home system, while Gor brings back in new tower modules he plans to make use of. While Gor and CB and Bre all enjoy some production fun, we haven’t really done any of that while in Anoikis, simply because it wasn’t terribly feasible without dealing with serious loss of materials in the refining process. The new Rorqual is making that concern a thing of the past, however, and aside from the new fuel blocks that we can now manufacture in our tower, Gor’s keen to research some blueprints and crank out a few of the shiny new battlecruisers being released. Since I want one (if not two) of those same battlecruisers, I’m not likely to complain.

I swear, as we log off for the night, it feels like the night before Christmas. Visions of Hurricanes dance in our heads.

What will Space Santa bring?

Life in a Wormhole: Blowing Up Properly #eveonline

The home system has been quiet this week (which is why I’ve been writing a few more guide-like things than normal), but one thing we did manage to accomplish was getting one of our old friends/new pilots into the system. In this case, it’s Tai (not to be confused — though he will be — with Ty).

Tai has particularly impressed me during his early time in EvE, because he’s asking really smart questions and (more importantly, to my mind) figuring out a lot of stuff on his own. He’s one of those extremely rare birds for whom the EvE interface actually seems to be intuitive, which is roughly as likely as a pregnancy resulting in identical twins, both of whom emerge from the womb as capable FORTRAN programmers.

Also in his favor is the fact that he’s chosen to stay focused on his ‘race’ of ships. Some of the Amarrian ships are a bit of a challenge to fit for wormholes, true, but since he’s not doing foolish things like learning every type of turret and missile system (Ty) or getting perfect ratings in every race’s frigate-class ships for every tech level (Bre), he’s been able to get into wormhole-functional sleeper-killing ships (full tech-two tank, tech2 weaponry, the whole package) in what is, to me, a surprisingly short amount of time.

As an added bonus, he doesn’t need to bring much with him for the move, since we have both pve- and pvp-focused Amarr battlecruisers waiting in the tower with his name on them (literally). Secure in that knowledge, he flat-packs all the parts for a Magnate-class scanning frigate in the hold of his Bestower-class hauler and flies to meet me for an escort through a few low-sec systems and into the hole. I give him a tour of the tower, show him where to dock his ships and stow the skillbooks he brought along, and we’re all set.

Tai logs out, but I’m not done, as it’s time to head out of the hole to known space again. Once again, I’ve made a list of stuff we need to pick up over the weekend, and once again, I’m going to step out a day early, switch to my cheap jump clone, and go on a roam with RvB to blow off some steam at the end of a stressful week.

The only difference this time is CB, who’s decided to come along and get some practice with his Sabre-class interdictor, whose warp-disrupting probe launcher seems to be very welcome on these roams. For myself, I’m happy to stick with the Arbitrator from the previous week, set up with a couple tracking disruptors, lasers, and many flights of drones.

The previous week, the laser fleet took a bit of time to get rolling, and a bit more time to find any sort of serious fight, but the opposite is true this week. By the time we reach the mustering system, not only have over a hundred pilots assembled (including three or four logistics ships for support), but the nascent fleet’s managed to kill a couple of capitol ships, in the form of two carriers who were (inexplicably) killing pirates in lowsec systems. Pity we missed out on that, but it turns out that quickly finding fights is going to be a theme for the night.

It just won’t go in favor of RvB.

There's a good chance our entertainment will come to an abrupt end.

CB and I have to race to catch up with the fleet, and once we do it’s only a few jumps before our forward scouts report a large fleet coming the other direction. It is, in fact, a fleet comparably sized to our own, all pilots from the well-known Northern Coalition.

They are, as I said, heading our way, so all we need to do is get to our best ranges off the gate and prepare, which for me means getting out well past thirty kilometers and for CB means getting right on top of the stargate and waiting for the blood to start spraying.

We don’t have to wait long, and it isn’t pretty.

The RvB gang had congratulated ourselves on having a small number of Basilisk-class logistics cruisers in the fleet, and it is only because of their efforts that we lasted as long as we did, but the NC. fleet had well over a dozen Guardian-class armor logistics cruisers of their own, and the power of their group’s repair capabilities proved more than we could punch through. A single Zealot-class heavy assault cruiser was the only ship that dropped to our guns before the gang was routed, and it was long before that that several fancy NC ships targeted CB’s interdictor (always a high-priority target in any engagement) and liberated his escape pod from the confines of the ship.

Both of us were able to escape the initial engagement with our clones intact, but it proved impossible to get back to anything resembling neutral space, since the enemy fleet broke up into at least a half-dozen smaller groups (20 ships per group) and stationed themselves on gates leading away from the system for several jumps in all directions. CB’s pod was cracked trying to reach me and, with him waking up in a new medical clone back in Gallente space, I made a run for it and found that a non-travel-fit cruiser with 1600mm armor plating is an unlikely candidate for nimble blockade running.

Still, the cost was minimal, the experience was experiency, and I lost no implants, thanks to my throwaway clone. CB did, but he was planning to upgrade his implants (which require destroying the old implants in any case), so at least they got retired in a proper blaze of glory.

Our night ends quietly, with CB cashing in some goodwill with the Gallente military to get some new wires in his head (and checking on what he needs to do to get a proper jump clone, which he hasn’t done), and me pricing fuel and tower supplies we need to bring back into the home system in the next few days.

It feels like things are getting back to normal and I, for one, couldn’t be happier.