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: 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.