Monday, September 29, 2014

Slow Times in Wspace High

These are slow times in wormhole space for this hunter.  I have been beating the bushes like crazy, but no birds have appeared. 

The new thing is that wspace is now hyper-connected.  Previous to Hyperion, a lot of our chains would look like this: C4a->C4b->C3a->ns.  Maybe a few side systems, but usually not enough to go on forever.  Then termination in known space.

With Hyperion, There are more connections everywhere, and every C4 system now gets two at least.  I routinely get more systems than I am willing to scan to.  My trees look like this:
Screenie from Tripwire
That is after only a partial night of (fruitless) searching.  I went down my K162s and into my H900, but I did not search it nor did I yet enter my X877.  In all those systems I saw probes once, and one Venture out in space that left and did not return before I could kill it.  (I might have spooked it somehow; don't know.)

Mathematically, when you increase the average connectivity of a graph from ~1 connection per node towards two, the size of connected chunks increases exponentially.  This is what has happened in wspace.  I expect that if all connections were instantiated, almost all of wspace would be in one large connected chunk.. There would still islands here and there, and of course a lot of the time connectivity is lowered because nobody is activating wormholes.  Still, from the POV of a hunter, the connectivity means you rarely have to leave wspace to find a new chain. 

The bad news?  First, I can't find anyone.  Anecdotal, but suggestive.  I see probes now and again, but I feel like the activity level of people running sites is down.  Usually I find a couple site runners per week. 

Another bit of suggestive anecdotal data is the rate at which new sites spawn.  Presumably, the set of sites in wspace is fixed and they are just kicked around from system to system when they either despace after being triggered, or despawn from being run.  I am very sensitive to the spawn rates of new anoms in my system.  Since Hyperion, the rate is about half what it used to be.  Formerly we'd get about 1 new combat anom or sig per day.  Now it is one per two days. 

I looked at prices of various wspace products, but there's no obvious trend I see.  I think it is too soon.  But I expect to see them rising.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wspace Logistics in C4

No, not logistics cruisers.  These horribly-named cruisers ought to be called "repair cruisers", since that's what they do, and logistics has a different meaning than repair.  Logistics is "the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet some requirements, of customers or corporations".  In wspace, logistics is about getting in the stuff needed to keep a corp functioning.  This is in particular POS fuel, but it also can be other consumables: ammunition, PI inputs, manufacturing inputs, strontium for capitals, etc..  Logistics is also about moving goods out of wspace, to sell them in kspace.  This includes blue loot and sleeper salvage, but also items produced in wspace: gas, PI goods, manufactured stuff, etc.

This article is a discussion of  logistics in C4, where I live.  Logistics in other parts of wspace is similar, though easier in many cases.  I have lived in a C1/hs (logistics was easy there, at least as far as getting to highsec), a C4/C3, a C4/C4, and now a C4/C4+C5.  I have no experience of living in C5 or C6.

Cargo Ships

There are many small and valuable goods that enter and leave wspace.  Most particularly, blue loot and sleeper salvage leave.  These can be carried in almost any ship, although small and fast, and cloaky, is better.  A blockade runner fit for agility and speed is good for this.  Since Hyperion, cloaky ships never appear within decloak range of the wormhole, so they are safer to move goods in than before.

What about larger goods?  These won't fit in a blockade runner in large amounts.  Here, we have to use ships with substantial cargo capacity.  These ships can be caught, so they need to be used properly. 

In upper wspace (C5 and C6), you can bring a freighter directly in if coming direct from known space.  I have not lived in upper wspace, but this is what I think I would aim to do.  One freighter with full cargohold expansion can carry over 1.1 million m^3 cargo, which is roughly 17 times what the next-largest carrier holds. It's probably worth waiting for that rare highsec connection.  Support your freighter with webbing to speed it into warp.

In lower or middle wspace, you can't use freighters.  So you have to make do with lesser transports: T1 carriers, T1 specialty carriers, and deep space transports.  DSTs used to be practically useless, being expensive, and yet far slower and carrying little or no more than a cheap Iteron V.  However, after their update in Crius, they have become quite nice.

Recon and Surveillance

You must always scan to get out of wspace, even if it is just a static highsec.  So, that is the first thing to do.  In deeper wspace, scanning a way out can take substantial time.  It helps if you have hunters in your corp, since scanning to hunt and scanning to find paths out are very similar.

Highsec exits are preferred.  However, it is possible to use lowsec as well.  A lowsec system adjacent to highsec is fine if it is largely abandoned.  You can count the people in local to get an idea of how busy it is.

Generally, you want as short of a path as you can get.  Often my paths are two wormhole jumps, typically going through a C2/hs+C4 that has connected to my system.  Sometimes we will do three hops.  Longer paths than that are unnecessarily dangerous; you'll get a path of length two or three soon enough.

It's nice to have a relatively short trip to Jita.  (I am using Jita as your assumed highsec base, where you have a freighter and an alt to drive it.  This is how I do it.)  Remember that a freighter takes 3 minutes per jump when piloted, and more like five per jump on autopilot (and also that autopiloting in highsec is relatively dangerous, especially through Uedama and Niarja).  And that is if you leave immediately; if you need time to put together stuff to bring, it will be longer.  Running stuff in and out of wspace will also take time.  Schedule to the playtime you have.

When a scout does exit out into highsec and finds a good route, he should bookmark the nearest station in the system.  (We call it "nearby - stationstring", where stationstring is the string that is put into the bookmark by default when you select the station and make a bookmark.)  If there are no stations in the exit system, or it is lowsec, the scout should go one hop towards Jita and bookmark the nearest station to that gate.  The nearby station is the station that your freighter pilot will fly to, and also pilots carrying goods down out of wspace.  Goods are passed between them by station trading (if they are there simultaneously, which is typical), or by contract.

When you have found a nice short path out to highsec (or sometimes lowsec), it's time to reconnoiter it.  You'll want a look at each system in the path, and also each adjacent system.  Is there anyone in the systems in the path?  No?  OK, proceed.  Yes?  Probably not a good time to run logistics.

Is there anyone in any adjacent systems?  No?  Then go ahead.  Yes?  Be cautious.  At minimum you'll want to keep a sound picket on the wormhole between them and your path.  If you can't do that, it's probably too dangerous.
Once you've decided to run goods, it's time to bring the freighter out from Jita.  This can take time.  While the freighter crawls across highsec, you should monitor the system(s) in the path as much as you can.  Any probes are a bad sign, although scouts will tend to move on.  Don't leave your probes out where anyone can see them and get interested.  Don't move lots of ships except as below.  Don't do anything to attract attention to your path.

Escorts and Eyes

Before running goods, get escorts ready in the path.  And get on coms.  Falcons are the ideal ship for the job, but you can use any cloaky.

The primary job of the escort is simply to alert people if he sees anything.  He should sit in a system near (15 km off of) one wormhole in the path, and ideally have dscan surveillance over any live towers and/or the other wormhole.  If there is substantial traffic in anything larger than an unarmed frigate, you should consider scratching the logistics attempt.  There will be another day. 

The secondary job of the escort is a last-ditch attempt to save your transports by jamming out attackers.  (That's why Falcon.)  However, it is risky and very undesirable to rely on this.  If you suspect attack, it's better to just not do logistics.

Ideally, you should have at least one escort for each dangerous system you are moving goods through.  For example, if the path is C4a->C2a->hs, use two escorts -- one in C4a, the other in C2a.  You can run with fewers escorts (or indeed, none), but it is is riskier.  If you have to leave systems unwatched, it should be your home system, systems with no live towers, systems with occupants who play at other times, and/or systems with few wormholes except the two directly in the pipe you are using.

Running Goods

Once the freighter is getting close, you may want to send out your first loads of bulky stuff.  PI goods can be done in Epithals, particularly if there are also PI goods to come in.  All goods can go in DSTs.  Try to carry out your most valuable stuff first, because the risk of attack will increase with the more runs you make.  This is your first run; it's the least predictable.

Transports should move as a group; that is, a convoy.  Being in a convoy will get them ganked as a group if you are unlucky enough to get bubbled and multiply-pointed.  However, that is extremely rare if your escorts are paying attention.  More likely is an attack by a lone bomber or T3 hunter.  Here, the convoy makes sure most of the goods get through. 

Escorts should make sure each system in the path is clear before transports jump in.  Both wormholes must be clear to proceed.  You can see if a remote location is clear on dscan if it is within 14.3 AU: it is not clear if there are any ships there of any kind, and/or if there is a bubble there.  If the other wormhole is out of dscan range, warp over there (at 30km), and check.

Transports should meet up with the freighter at the nearby station for goods transfer.  Be ready to turn around promptly.  Wait out polarization in highsec.  I usually don't wait out polarization in wspace because any attacker will just cross-jump to get you anyway.

If you do get attacked, then you'll have to figure how to proceed.  A small attack (i.e. one stealth bomber) can sometimes simply be run by.  Epithals and DSTs should be heavily warp core stabilized.  If the attack is larger, getting by safely becomes less likely.  DSTs may be able to micro jump past bubbles; others will have to turn back.  Falcons can assist here by jamming out the ships pointing the DSTs.  If you do get attacked, don't try to keep moving.  Wspace hunters are like sharks.  Let them get bored.  Don't run any logistics at least an hour.  Make sure to log off your characters or cloak them up; leaving them sitting at a POS is too visible and will keep hope alive.

When transports have just passed through a system, and you are planning more passes through there, the escorts there should be particularly alert.  (I.e.: dscan more.)  You are looking for any change, which would tend to indicate that someone saw your run and is getting ready to ambush.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Late evening.  I am exploring wspace in my trusty Manticore.  Usually I hunt for a couple hours a night, which involves mostly scanning.  I scan out as many systems as I can in the time I have.  If I can find someone to kill, great, I try to kill them.  Then before bed I'll run back around to all the systems, hoping to see something.  The chance that a system that was idle before has become active is very.low, but it's so much faster to check systems that are already scanned, that it's well worthwhile.

Our neighboring C4 has statics to C1 and C2.   Both statics were EOL earlier.  When I return for a second look, they are both gone.  There are six sigs total, but four of them I scanned earlier.  I ignore them; a bit of scanning will give me two fresh systems.  Is there time for that?  There's time.  I fire probes and scan.

The new C2a has dual statics to highsec and C4.  The highsec would be interesting early in the evening, when I might need it to get back in after being killed.  But now it's too late for that.  The C4 would be interesting except that it is hidden among 16 sigs.  Too many.  I'll just look for targets and leave.

A quick warp to two planets out of dscan range shows that nobody is home.  I leave; total time in the system: two minutes.  I am polarized jumping back out, but I nobody is around in C4b.  And even if they were, catching a stealth bomber in the era of Hyperion is really quite difficult.

Nobody is there to greet me.  I warp straight to the C1 static, then jump into C1a.  I dscan, and there is an Imicus on scan, and probes, and a tower.  He's probably sitting at the tower scanning.  But he might be out somewhere I can catch.  Time for some dscanning.

I quickly discover the Imicus is not at the tower.  So where is he?  Maybe somewhere really stupid like a celestial.  I point at the sun: not there.  I point at each planet in range: not there.  OK, he must be at a safespot, or at a sig.  How many sigs?  Just three.  Good.  If he's at a safespot, I won't be able to find him, but I might be able to ambush him at a wormhole.  So I need to get those sigs.  One of them is a highsec wormhole, which may be where he is from or where he is.  The others may also be wormholes, although that's relatively unlikely.

There's an outer planet.  I can't tell if it is out of range of the Imicus or not, but I'd prefer to be out of dscan range to fire probes.  I warp out there, and it is indeed out of range.  OK, good for me.  I uncloak, fire probes, then re-cloak and warp back into the inner system.  The Imicus is still there on dscan.

I am cognizant that, with my having just entered through a new wormhole, the clock is ticking.  The Imicus just needs to strobe his dscan to see the new signature.  If he is at a place I can get to, he'll certainly leave if he sees a new signature.  Even if he's not, a new sig may make him more cautious.  So time is of the essence.

I find his general angle and range (4.5AU) from where I am.  Now I bring in my probes, and carefully put them where he is.  I set the probes to 1AU and scan.

The scan completes: nothing.  No dot, not even a circle or sphere.  I totally missed.  Impossible!  (That word does not mean what I think it means.)

OK, well, I'll scan at 4AU.  This may take two tries, but I can hope he is too distracted by scanning.  His scanning is another reason for me to hurry.  There are only three sigs, and I've already wasted minutes!  I'd be long-done with three sigs in that time.  And yet his probes are still on scan.

My 4AU scan gets a dot, but it is nowhere near where I think he is.  This is confusing.  I search it down.  In fact I'll scan down all three sigs.  At this point, my cover is probably blown.  Quickly I scan them, then recall probes.  (His probes are still out.)  I check dscan on all three sigs, and he is not there.

It occurs to me that maybe he is in an anom.  This would be dumb, but I've seen dumb before plenty of times.  Most of the people I kill did something dumb.  So I toggle anoms back on, and start narrow-beam d-scanning them.  On the third anom, an ore site, I find him.  Woops.
I know where you are now.

Boy did I waste a lot of time scanning!  But there's no time to kick myself about that.  I still have a chance.

I warp to the ore anom at 10km, expecting to see him gone.  Or 200km away straight up, and moving away fast.  But there he is, 10km from me, right at the warp-in point.  Unmoving.  Glory be!

Soon to be an ex-ship.

I head right at him, set my orbit to 2500m, then uncloak, sebo, and lock.  Locked.  Two rounds of torps, and he blows up.
Torps hitting pod.

The pod's out.  I have my sebo on.  Locking... and locked.  Podded.

Now I scoop the loot, and... uh... Small Armor Repairer I?  Archaeology skillbook?  Must be kind of young.  A few months.  How old is this character?  Let me check... oh boy.  He was created... today!

I just killed a guy in wspace on his very first day!

Ooops.  Well, not really oops.  I meant to kill him, and I meant to pod him, and I did.  There's no time to ponder individuals when you are hunting, especially hunting on a timer.  Still, I dislike killing rank newbs.  In retrospect, it's easy to see that killing him was no challenge at all.  All the challenge was in my own mind.  The ticking timer was not ticking.  Finding him was trivial.  He probably never knew I was there.

I want soften the blow a bit, and also to help him do better.  So I open up a conversation with him.  He seems to have taken it well:
Gottfried Ellecon > hello
Von Keigai > So I see after the fact that you are really new.
Von Keigai > Sorry about that.  But you know, dangerous space.  Some of us love the killing.
Gottfried Ellecon > quite so, fortunately that means theres nothing terribly important in the effects I left behind
Von Keigai > I like your moxie in beiing in wormhole space at your age.
Von Keigai > What are you trying to do up here?
Gottfried Ellecon > just exploring, trying to get a fix on some anomolies, more interesting in that part of space
Gottfried Ellecon > also more dangerous
Von Keigai > Yes.
Von Keigai > So, here's two tips on how to scan safely.
Von Keigai > (1) have a cloak.  You can hide about anywhere and be pretty safe.
Von Keigai > (2) if no cloak ... well, train it... but if no cloak, don't scan in an anomaly like that ore site.
Von Keigai > Killer like me can see that.  FLy right to it.
Von Keigai > One more question: did you see my probes?
Gottfried Ellecon > no
Von Keigai > Ah.  OK, well it is hard to remember to dscan when you are scanning.
Von Keigai > But if you are in wspace, and not cloaked... you should be dscanning.  A lot.
Gottfried Ellecon > roger
Von Keigai > At least once per time which you hit the "scan now" button.
Von Keigai > If you see probes... especially combat probes... GTFO.
Von Keigai > But even seeing normal probes... that's a sign someone is around.
Gottfried Ellecon > right
Von Keigai > Do you have the cloaking skill trained yet?
Gottfried Ellecon > nope
Von Keigai > OK, well, get it in at some point.
Gottfried Ellecon > I really had no business being there, lol
Von Keigai > True. but also false.  Wspace is great.
Gottfried Ellecon > So i've been told
Von Keigai > As I said, I like it that you were here at all.  I never entered wspace until I was months old.
Gottfried Ellecon > there's a certain eerieness to it that's rather appealing
Von Keigai > The lack of local... it makes for challenging tactical situations.  And yeah, it is scary once you experience it a while.
Gottfried Ellecon > Thank you for the advice, happy hunting,
Von Keigai > Well, I guess I have had my say.  You got any newb questions burning your mind that I might answer?
Gottfried Ellecon > not really, but I appreciate the offer
Von Keigai > OK.  Shoot me a mail if you want help.
Gottfried Ellecon > will do
Von Keigai > o/

Have I become a monster?  Yes.  Yes, I think I have.  "Without me dangerous space wouldn't be dangerous."  Achievement unlocked.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Lost Site

It's the weekend, but late.  Jayne and I just zipped up our home system and ran 9 anoms.  There's nothing left to do in our system except suck some worthless gas.  I care, but not that much, bear.  Let's open up and have a look at the rest of EVE.  It's a bit late to interact unwillingly with Europeans.  But you never know who might be out.

I am in already in my hunting Manticore.  In fact I already have the new static wormholes located and ready to fly to.   As soon as Jayne is done with a PI run, I transit into C4b.

There's two towers, but nobody around.  They are not very active -- the system has 13 combat anoms.  Par for the course.  After determining this, I scan down the system's 12 sigs.  In addition to lots of gas and some radar sites, it has C3a and C4a through its statics, and also a small wormhole to C3b.  I check out C3a first.  Abandoned system; abandoned C3s are usually nullsec statics.  I check.  Yup.  Nullsec.  Well, that's dull.  There is one sig to a C6, which I look into long enough to see nobody home.  Oh well, back up the chain.

I go back to C4b, then on to C4c through its static.  C4c is occupied, but they are not around.  I see a Rorqual, though, which is a rare sight in wspace.  Ironically, it is at a POS with a Compression Array.  I don't have the energy to search down its 10 sigs.  So I back out again.

On to C3b.
A small wormhole
My manticore has no problem with small wormholes.  I always hope to surprise someone, but of course people know that stealth bombers come through such holes and so are just as wary.  Still, hope springs eternal.  C3b is inhabited but nobody is home.  It's got a lowsec static.  It also has 19 sigs, which I am not keen to scan down.  I am hoping for a highsec connection, so I decide to just scan the high signature sigs.  This will include any K162s.  (All K162s have high signal strength.)  After I eliminate all the sigs with obviously lower signal strength (they have bigger bubbles), I am left with six sigs.  That is manageable.

Scan, scan.  Several are gas.  One is the lowsec static.  Another is a K162 from nullsec, not what I want right now.  The final one turns out to be another C4.

Well... my hunting time is almost done.  But just one more system...  I dive into C4d.

C4d turns out to be uninhabited, and an anom graveyard.  Looking through the anoms, there's a ghost site!  OK, I'll go home and get my ghostbusting Tengu...

No wait, I won't.  It can't get here.

I ponder what to do about this.  But there is nothing I can do right now.  Instead, I fly to the site in full tourist mode, camera at the ready.  I figure the C4 clouds are always so dramatic, and I never get good shots of ghost sites because I am too busy attempting to score.

I warp in uncloaked at 100km.  You must be uncloaked on grid to start the timer.  Then I cloak and get ready.
A Guristas Superior Covert Research Facility looking tranquil.

I am not there long when the Guristas come.
Guristas wardens.
With nothing to shoot, the guardians just mill around a little.  Then they blow the cans.  Goodbye, whatever nice blueprints were in there.
And finally they zoom off.  This is a nice effect, and rather hard to capture.
I proceed home, not richer, but thoughtful.  Is there a ship to safely run ghost sites through small wormholes?  An Astero can just barely survive a 14000 point explosion.  I think.  But I know an Onyx can, for sure.
[Onyx, Ghostbuster]
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II
Damage Control II

Large Shield Extender II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
PL-0 Shipment Probe
Data Analyzer II
Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I

Warp Disruption Field Generator I
Warp Disruption Field Generator I
[empty high slot]
[empty high slot]
Improved Cloaking Device II
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Core Defense Field Extender I
Medium Core Defense Field Extender I

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Smugglers and Null

One of things I hate about sov null is that from my point of view, it's a waste land.  It's true that nobody is in local in most of the systems.  But that's not that different from many parts of lowsec and even some highsec.  Unlike those other areas, though, I cannot dock at any of the outposts/stations.  Since I cannot dock anywhere, I cannot partake of many sorts of gameplay that stations facilitate.  I cannot use the markets.  Nor can I use contracts, stash things, etc.

I can't be a smuggler, sneaking into stations when nobody is around to sell my wares.

(Actually, it is unclear to me whether or not I can actually dock at any given player-owned thing.  I assume I can't, but I don't know.  I have no way that I know of to find out other than trying.  This seems hazardous.)

I propose to loosen the perfect control currently exerted by the nullsec empires over their stations.  Lore-wise, each station is being run by a local governor.  If that governor thinks he can get away with it, he may let neutrals docks even though they are otherwise disallowed.  

Each station should have a right-click menu item "Talk to Governor".  This would be available when on grid with the station.  Or perhaps anywhere in the system.  Selecting it raises a chat screen somewhat like an agent.  I.e., a picture of the governor, a readout of your personal standings with him or her, as well as the owning corp and alliance.  Also, there should be a clear indication of whether you can dock.  For example, "you are welcome to dock at LPQZ-15".

There should be three docking-permission states.
  • "You are welcome to dock at..." This message means you can dock because your corp and/or alliance is permitted.
  • "Right now, you can dock at..."  Displayed when you can dock, but might not be able to later. 
  • "You cannot dock at..." -- Displayed when you cannot dock.

A governor will allow otherwise disallowed pilots to dock in some circumstances.  Just as for empire factions, player corporations and alliances should have standings computed for them.  When you kill a person from a corp/alliance, you lose standings with it.

Like agents, the governors should have missions.  All kinds of missions should be offered.  Completing a mission would increase standings with that governor.  Also you gain standings with his current faction, and lose standings with all other corps/alliances which have that faction set to enemy.  No LP would be awarded (player corps don't have LP).  Unlike other agents, a governor's missions should be a random mix of all missions, levels 1 through 5.  Furthermore, unlike other agents a governor's missions are very finite.  Each governor will have either zero or one mission current at one time.  If he has a mission, it will be offered to everyone who has the standings to request it.  (The mission system would have to be tweaked to allow this.)  The first capsuleer to complete the mission can turn it in for standings.  Other capsuleers who accepted that mission fail, although this should not count against their standings since it is not a private mission.

Governors should have a cooldown between missions of some random amount of time between two and six hours.  This puts a sharp limit on farming the missions for standings, while spreading out who can get them into all timezones.

Standings are used to determine whether pilots can dock who are not explicitly allowed to dock.  (Of course the corp/alliance owning the station can always determine who is on their white list.)  Generally, the following factors increase the chance that a capsuleer can dock at a station:
  • standings with governor
  • standings with corp owner of station
  • standings with alliance owner of station
  • few or no non-idle pilots in that system who are in the alliance owning the station
  • few or no non-idle pilots in that system who are in the corp owning the station

A specific formula might be as follows.  You can dock if:
 1 < standings(gov) + .5*standings(corp) + .1*standings(alliance) - #pilots(corp) - .5*#pilots(alliance)

So, in an empty system, you'd just need standings of around 1.0 with a governor, unless you'd been actively shooting his corp/alliance, in which case you'd need more.  Of course, even getting to 1.0 would require running missions in null.

Once you have standings, you could smuggle in goods for sale at the local outpost.  Store stuff there.  Get your ships out from an enemy held station, even.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Fight Declined

It's corp night -- the one night a week we all try to be on together to earn space-bucks via PVE.  Or to do PVP, if we find something we can kill.  But tonight, we're looking for PVE.  We have not done any casual cleaning out of our system since Hyperion, since it is never zipped up to our knowledge.  If we want safety, we have to pop wormholes, and that's not a casual thing.

But tonight we have all of us on, each with two or more alts, in many battleships.  We've got just two sigs: our two statics.  We've scouted out the systems our statics connect to; they are apparently idle.  So we are popping holes.  We'll commence with sleeper-killing shortly.

After numerous passes, we end up massing both wormholes deep into critical but not entirely poofed.  So I am in an Onyx, delivering the coups de grace.  First, the H900.  In and out. And... wait for it... nothing.  It's still there.  Magic Eight ball says try again later.  Now over to the X877: in and out, and ... wait for it... poof!  Have I become trapped?  No; the rest of EVE is trapped out.  Except for this H900.  Let's do something about that.  I warp to the H900.

In warp, a check of my discovery scanner has me alert.  There are three sigs.  That is, by my count, one too many.   We're on coms so I alert the guys.  I consider finishing off the H900, but then realize that if I do, any interlopers might search it down and warp to it, scotching our work.  I dscan, but no probes or scouts are visible.  Still... popping it is a bad idea.  So I just warp back to our POS.

In warp, I dscan again, still looking for probes.  I see a scout instead, a Buzzard.  Well, that answers the question about what the new sig is.

Jayne scans it down.  He warps a cloaky scout to watch it.

Meanwhile, I have landed on grid at our POS.  We start discussing the situation.  Should we fly straight over to the new wormhole and pop it ASAP?  That's what I propose.  It's risky, but I feel that the risk is acceptable.  I get in my hole-popper Scorpion.  But before we get organized, there's a new wrinkle.

There's a wreck on grid at our POS.  What happened?  Evidently the Buzzard blundered into my decloak trap and got killed.  (Here is the killmail.)  I did not see the Buzzard or the pod, but it must have been just now.  Jayne suggests our Sabre, and I agree.  If the pod warps around at all, I can get to the new wormhole in time to kill him.

I get in our Sabre, then warp straight to the new wormhole.  I am decelerating out of warp, at about 100000km off, when Jayne reports the pod on grid.  It lingers just a moment... I am landing.  It jumps.  I jump.  My plan is to immediately break cloak and get a bubble up, and my sebo on.  Then we'll see if I can get him.

My plan does not survive, for there is contact with an enemy.  There are several ships here.  (The ship types don't register.  Wish I'd taken a screenshot, but I didn't.)  I am slightly outside of jump range back, about 6000m from the wormhole.  But my situation won't improve by sitting here.  I immediately head back to the wormhole, firing a warp bubble off.  Nobody locks me until I jump back home.

Immediately upon loading grid back home, I warp to our tower.  The enemy jump behind me, but they are a bit slow, and interdictors warp pretty fast.  Just as I head into warp I see one of them.  Then I am out.

That didn't go how I thought it would.

Jayne reports they've entered our system in an Eos and a Phantasm.  (Eh?)  They sit at the wormhole.

Now, obviously our six battleships and assorted support ships can smash that.  But also obviously they have seen us at our tower, and know more or less our number.  And we have no idea what's on their side of the wormhole.  I only saw a few ships when I was there, but that was then.  There could be an entire T3 fleet over there by now.

I stick by my cardinal rule of wspace: never engage at a wormhole unless you have eyes on the other side.  We don't, so we sit.  A Manticore comes in, moves off and cloaks.  So I get in my bomber and spend some time hiding at our decloak trap, just in case.  But after a few minutes, it does not get trapped.

We'd like to engage, so we need eyes on the other side and ideally, an idea of where they came from.  Eyes on their tower would be nice.  We decide to send someone through in a scout.  Timmay?  Not so keen to die.  I will do it.  I return to our POS and get in my Buzzard, which I rarely use any more.  I strip off a few unnecessary fittings just in case, then warp straight to the wormhole.

I land, and the enemy cannot lock me.  I jump.  On the other side are a heavy interdictor of some kind -- his bubble is up -- and a light drone boat.  (Again, sorry no pictures and I was too busy to notice.)  I zoom out and study the bubble just a moment, then rotate and order a move towards the closest edge of the bubble.  Then a second later, I cloak, and pulse my microwarpdrive.  The pulse carries me out to the edge of the bubble, and into the clear.  It looks like they are not chasing, so I linger while moving off.  Then I can see the drone boat coming at me fast, so I warp off to the sun at 100km.

After a further warp to a planet, I fire my probes and get busy searching down the system.  I find a tower, but it is not their tower.  They must have come from further upstream.  I find two nullsec wormholes, a C2, and an EOL C5.

As I do this, the enemy get bored and leave.  I am off looking at a wormhole when they do this, so I don't see where they went.

It may be safe at this point to pop the wormhole.  But maybe not.  And it's getting late enough that we call it a night.  Guys start logging off.

I head into the C2, but it's not where they are from.  I am left guessing that they were from null, or possibly the C5 that is EOL.  (They might know its timing.)

When I return home, I am followed almost immediately across the wormhole by their Manticore, but escape easily.  This shows they are watching.  I warp to our tower and sit AFK for a while.

Later, I'm on alone.  A lone Jaguar appears on our wormhole and sits there, orbiting.  Evidently he's hoping for a fight.  But I am not interested.  I don't have any decent one-on-one matchups for that.  And even if I did, once again I don't know what's on the the other side.  Sorry, fellow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reaping Tractors

Wspace has been rather quiet since Hyperion.  I can get to more of it; my chains are almost always more than I can scan.  But I am rarely finding people I can gank.  All I caught recently was a couple of Ventures.  At least in C4, I think there has been a substantial decline in site-running.  Our new anoms have slowed to a trickle.

So I am excited when, entering a new C4 system, there is a site-runner on scan.  A bunch of sleeper wrecks, two tractor units, and a Vindicator.  There are enough anoms in this system that it will be painful to bookmark them all.  And I am only seeing a handful of wrecks; the site must be still going.  So I think I have some time.  I'll search for the anom using narrow-angled dscan.

After a bit of searching, I can see the wrecks and a tractor, but not the Vindicator.  That's disappointing; he must have seen my new connection via the discovery scanner and GTFO.  It's the right move.  Still, he did not get his tractor, so maybe I can still kill something.  I find the tractor unit in a Frontier Barracks, and warp in at 100km to have a look.

Sure enough, there are the wrecks clustered around a tractor unit.  There is a sleeper wave way off from the tractor, looking like it just spawned.

Now let's find that Vindicator.  A quick planet survey with the dscan shows which planet it's at; I warp over and find the right moon.  Then I warp in.

To my surprise, the Vindicator is unmanned.  Hmm.  OK, I guess it was not site-running all by itself.  But the presence of the wrecks does indicate someone was, and fairly recently.

As I ponder this, I am dscanning just to keep an eye on the system.  And then I notice something: the wrecks are gone.  The site is still in range; apparently the wrecks just timed out.  Wrecks last two hours, so now I know that little or nothing has happened in this system recently.  Apparently someone was running sites, and either got jumped or just interrupted.

I don't know why he did not go back for his tractor units.  But I certainly will.  I look around using dscan for the second tractor unit.  It is not in any anom.  So I will have to combat scan for it.

Combat scan?  I can do that.  I log in my alt Otto, who jumps into his scanning Cheetah.  Then he jumps into C4b, and fires probes.  After a bit of scanning, I have the site.  I fleet both characters, and have Otto warp Von to the right place.

Von lands on grid, then commences to uncloak and shoot the tractor unit.  I don't expect interference, but you never know in wspace.  So I hammer away at the dscanner, looking for that uncloaking whatever seeking to ruin my day.  I use up my meager supply of vanilla scourge torps and have to reload with Caldari Navy ones.  Then I kill the remaining structure, and the tractor unit dies.  I scoop some nice loot, then move off and cloak.

The tractor unit was not empty; that's important.  It means the other one is also likely to have something in it.  I'd try to kill it anyway, but with loot goading me on, I mean it.  I warp back to the first tractor to have a look at the sleepers again.

I have a tractor unit guarded by sleepers.  They are not close, so there are a few things I could do.  I check on the site at eve-survival: the sleeper wave I am looking at must be the final wave, except that its frigates are gone.  They warp disrupt; these remaining guys don't do anything except damage and nos.  I need a tank... how much tank?  Eve-survival says 912 DPS; minus frigs call it 900.  OK, what do I have that can take that?

I think my small-site Tengu would work.  It's a Tengu set up to kill sleeper frigs and cruisers; about 600 DPS tank, but I can adjust that some.  I get up EFT, and sure enough.  With a damage control instead of a ballistic control, and a second shield boost amp instead of its target painter, it should tank 859.  The remaining tank will come from distance, signature and speed; most of the sleeper damage comes from their nasty missiles.

Otto sits and watches the tower.  Von goes home to get the Tengu.  Then I refit it -- fortunately we have the parts.  I warp back, cross into C4b, then warp straight to the first tractor unit.  I orbit it at 5000m, then lock it up and start shooting.

The sleepers notice me and start shooting.  Their damage is not a challenge.  I have to run the shield booster about half the time.  Mostly I am keeping my eye on dscan.  But again, there is no interference.  When the tractor unit is about to blow, I move in close.  It blows up, I grab the loot, and GTFO.  Home and safe.  Whew.

EVE is not just me even when I cannot find anyone.  The effects of other people are ever present.  Even when I can't directly interact with them, there's a chance of interesting indirect interaction.  Drones are left out.  POSes run out of fuel.  And site runners are scared off and yet neither they nor the scarers kill their tractor units.  It's not as satisfying as PVP, but I'll take it.

Friday, September 12, 2014


There's a new blog banter out, #58 - Money:
The SOMERBlink fiasco from last summer and then again this summer... resulting in the service's ultimate shutdown has opened the floor to the discussion or monetization of services once again. 
Do you think CCP was right in its reaction? Was SOMERBlink justified in trying to monetize its service via plex sales kickbacks? Was it true RMT or grey area RMT? 
More generally, where is the line to be drawn when a service attempts to monetize in order to offset costs and/or make a profit? Is asking for donations in Real Life cash too far (I realize CCP considers it unacceptable right now)? Selling non-EVE trademarked goods acceptable? Asking for money to pay for efforts in setting up EVE meetups? Should these all be scrutinized? 
And should you want to dig deeper, should players be allowed to reverse redeem plex for cash? Does this already not exist in programs like Plex for fanfest packages or video cards? Is it right?
About Somer

First off, I am not that interested in Somer.  What they did was RMT, but the RMT per se was not the heart of what they did wrong.  RMT is fine if done with CCP's blessing.  (I.e., PLEX, fanfest packages, video cards, etc.)  Somer did not have CCP's full and knowledgeable permission to do RMT.  They tricked CCP into a sort-of permission to do it, and that is a very different thing.  It's one thing to trick someone with inferior or equal power; you can sometimes get away with it.  It's another thing to trick the hand that feeds you.  It was a stupid ploy.  Then they compounded their error by breaking EULA in several ways.  CCP did the right thing.  Nobody wants a subordinate that tries to scam and refuses to accept the rules.

Why or Why Not RMT?

Now let's talk in more generality.  Why is RMT banned, anyway?  Presumably, because its downsides outweigh its upsides.  But what are the upsides?  You don't hear people talk about that very much.  Let's look at both sides.

Why RMT?

There's a very interesting scifi element in Neal Stephenson's recent scifi novel Reamde (sic).  In the book's near-future world there is a MMO called "T'rain", which features full RMT, by design.  Indeed, the RMT is said to be among the reasons why the game is such a fictional success.  Legions of third-world gold farmers make a living by playing T'rain.  They are the low-level farmers (literally) in the game; it's their real-life full time job.  Rich Westerners play the game as a game, paying subscriptions, and are in effect the aristocrats of the game.  Each one has a horde of farmers working beneath him.

T'rain aristocrats are paying for three things that are affected by RMT: a living world, dominance, and status.  Let's look at each of these, and see how it is related to RMT.

First, T'rain is a living fantasy world that is full of actual people, not just simulated people.  (It also has a lot of computer-controlled baddies for PVE purposes.)  All the scutwork -- mining, farming, woodcutting, etc. -- is being done by characters in the game.  Everything is simulated down to the geology of the virtual world.  So, the world feels real.  Think about the difference in feel between an ice anomaly, and a level four mission.  In both, the grid is full of ships.

Second, just as in EVE, the T'rain aristocrats are the guys who get to run around and have adventures, many of which include fighting each other.  When you fight, someone wins, and gets the thrill of dominating another real human being.  Compare PVP in EVE to PVE.  The same thing applies: killing people is thrilling.  Losing is crushing, but for most people it does not depress you as much as a win elates you.  So, you ride the rollercoaster.  And note that in T'rain, there are "peasants" -- the gold farmers -- who presumably players can kill if they want a cheap win.

Similarly, presumably in T'rain if you want to hurt someone you can go and kill his peasants, Game of Thrones style.  Think of the difference in EVE between ganking and PVE.  In both you are shooting ships which in effect cannot win.  But ganking is typically fun; real tears are generated.  Compare the staid predictability of PVE.  Dominating a computer-played static fleet -- a fleet which is designed to allow you to beat it -- ceases to be fun after a while.

Third, the T'rain aristocrats get the thrill of being actually high-status in the game.  Human beings crave status perhaps as much anything else; they'll sacrifice a lot for it: money, sex, their very lives, even the lives of their children.  It's a very powerful motivator.  In most games the player is high status in the game's asserted fiction; for example, he's a "Jedi knight" and everyone knows that "Jedi knights" are high status supermen.  But the player in most games does not in fact have actual status in the sense of having actual human subordinates.  At best he has NPC subordinates; and after a point they do not tweak our status circuits.  By contrast, in T'rain, you could pay for actual status -- that is, having human subordinates -- and get it.

So, in summary, T'rain hits on a lot of the same buttons that EVE does.  But it does some things arguably better: a better simulated world, and higher status for its paying players.  Of course, we should keep in mind that T'rain is fictional.  I think the elements above would be successful in a real-world game.  Some of them are in EVE!  But it's trivial to assert in a story that your game is a worldwide smash hit because of X.  It's another thing to write an actual popular game, and yet another that a real game is popular because of X.

So, there are reasons why CCP should forget about monopolizing RMT and let people do it.

So why not allow RMT?

Why Not RMT?

Of course, CCP does allow very generous RMT: that's what PLEX is.  (Ref: my old post on EVE's Amazing AIs.)  But PLEX is uni-directional: money goes in; it never comes out.  What about opening up the other direction?  Of course, CCP should profit from it.  They might set up a online currency exchange: a modest "tax" on exchanges of say 10% seems like it should extract a lot of profit from the practice while still being low enough that black-market RMT is minimized.

One huge reason why full RMT might be a bad idea is real world laws.  If you hold someone's money for them, you are a bank, at least arguably.  And therefore arguably banking regulations should be applied to you.  I have certainly seen this mentioned in the RMT context.  I don't know how applicable it really is.  But if it is, I can certainly see that allowing any RMT might be prohibitive costly.  But let's ignore this reason for now and concentrate only on reasons related to game design.

One reason why people think that RMT is bad is that it makes it hard to earn ISK.  I discuss this with Gevlon in the comments of this post.  I make the point that ISK incomes would not collapse totally; they'd just drift down towards the global minimum wage.  (Really the minimum wage that obtains in places which have good internet access and sufficient population.  Today that is probably China.)  At the time, I computed 14m ISK/hour as that level; that was with PLEX around 500m.  The rate today would be somewhat higher, more like 20m ISK/hour.  This may not seem great to a wspace or null person.  But there are many people today earning less than that in highsec.  Highsec's safety counts for a lot, for many players.  So, there is definitely a viable game left even after all higher-profit work is professionalized.

Now, it should be apparent that in opening a competition between people all over the world to "play" EVE as a job, you open up competition and will drive wages down, at least somewhat.  A Chinese peasant may compare a job mining veldspar in EVE to, perhaps, working as a street-sweeper, and decide that he can survive on less than minimum wage.  The work is much more pleasant.  So wages would probably be a bit lower.  Still, the estimate is fine on that end.

Another thing that would happen with full RMT is that PLEX would go up quite a bit.  Consider a Chinese peasant playing EVE to make money.  He finds that they can rat in nullsec for 60m ISK/hour.  So he and a friend get an account and rat with it all day in shifts, perhaps 20 hours per day, six days per week.  Over a month, that's 33.6b ISK.  From that, they need to buy one PLEX to run the account; PLEX cashed out beyond that earn them minimum wage.  But their mininum wage is on the order of $112/month; if they can cash out a PLEX for $15 legally, then they'd need 15 of them to pay just over minimum.  16 total.  So we see a valuation of 2.1b ISK/PLEX.  (Perhaps not coincidentally, PLEX are just about 2b ISK on the Chinese server, although they pay about half as much for PLEX.)

So what's the problem here?  The problem is that everyone becomes risk averse.  That is because everyone has the possibility to extract real cash from the game.

Now, there's no problem in farmers becoming, or rather being, risk averse.  The Code to the contrary, pure farming is a viable play style.  And farmers already are famously risk averse.  They'd be perhaps bit more so with the ability to cash out, but really not that much.

It's the rest of the players that would have their incentives changed much for the worse.  Currently, it is relatively easy to earn more than PLEX.  So people pile up ISK with nothing to do with it.  For those whom ISK is not an end, but a means to more pixel violence, lots of ISK will eventually mean they fly more, or they end up up-shipping, flying more expensive ships.  They are more capable and also more fun to blow up.  Thus, everyone benefits.  And people stay in the game, because the spaceship violence is compelling.

Consider an EVE in which losing a "$1000" Titan really is losing $1000... and suddenly, you won't see many Titan pilots.

By making the accumulation of ISK easy, and having nothing to spend it on but spaceship violence, CCP induces lots of spaceship violence in their game of spaceship violence.  And that's a good thing, because lacking spaceship violence nobody would play EVE.

But What About PLEX-for-Vidcards?

So, the point of disallowing cash-out-RMT is to make sure EVE stays fun, which is what happens when there's nothing better to do with ISK.  But what about all those methods of trading PLEX for real stuff mentioned in the banter?  Video cards and fanfest packages, etc.?

Well, those do give players an outlet for ISK, and so they should have the effect of reducing the amount of pixel violence going on.  But on the other hand, at least arguably by handing out things related to EVE, you cement fan loyalty directly, and keep them playing because they like the game more.  So, I think it's a wash on the "fun" factor.  And also, it's a clear win to the extent that many of the people using these offers are not PVPers.  They're not going to do anything with the ISK in any case.

There is also the point about professionalization.  By allowing cashout in any form, CCP reduces the amount players can earn in game, because people will do extra farming to earn ISK for cashout.  But so long as CCP keeps the amount of cashout relatively small and unpredictable, this is not a real problem.  "Relatively small" here is relative to the global minimum wage.  Allowing cashout of a PLEX per month is insufficient for anyone to live on.  Unpredictable just means that you cannot come to rely on that income.  Also, cash per se should not available; rather, goods or services, ideally services that are not salable.  This makes it more difficult to live on cashout opportunities.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fits for Hunting in Wspace

Usually weekends are the best times for interesting happenings in EVE, but not this time.  I drew a blank, and not for want of trying.  So instead of the latest story of killing or weird stuff happening, I thought I'd take up an easy one.  A reader asks what ship I hunt in.

Requirements for Hunting in Wormhole Space

Perhaps the most obvious and important requirement for hunting in wspace is a covert ops cloak.  There are lots of people interested in kills, and if they can see you, eventually they'll catch you.  So, the only ships in consideration are stealth bombers, the cloaky Recon Ships (Pilgrim/Falcon/Arazu/Rapier), and T3s with the Covert Reconfiguration subsystem.

A second requirement for most hunters is the ability to launch probes.  This is wspace, and you must find all the exits once per day.  This requirement really hurts Recon ships, since they do not have any spare high slots once the covert ops cloak is fitted.  They have to give up 1/3 of their already not huge non-drone output.

I hunt in a stealth bomber, a Manticore.  I do this mainly for reasons of price/performance.  Stealth bombers are cheap, so I can afford to lose them.

On the performance side, the most important thing when hunting is high DPS.  Killing your target ASAP prevents it from getting away (if it can), or escaping when help arrives.  It can even prevent it from helping itself.  (I ganked a Noctis a bit back that deployed Warrior II drones but did not kill me with them.  I chatted afterward with the pilot and it turned out he was locking me the whole time!)  Stealth bombers have more DPS, with more modest skills, than anything that can fit a covert ops cloak.  Compare: my bomber gets about 500DPS.  A comparable Loki, which I trained into but never actually flew, gets about 375 DPS.  (Of course the Loki cannot be killed by harsh language.)  Similarly Recon ships do moderate damage by comparison to bombers.

Another important aspect of performance is ability to lock quickly.  Again, bombers are superior to larger ships here.  They have no "sensor recalibration delay" when uncloaking, buying precious seconds.  And they have higher sensor strength so they lock more quickly.

In Hyperion, we also have those new small wormholes.  This is an additional reason to hunt in a bomber, since only the lightest ships can get through.

My Manticore

I have two fits for my Manticore, which you can see below.  The first is the main fit that I hunt in; it is a fairly traditional bomber fit.  I expect you can find this exact fit on battleclinic, except perhaps using higher-meta parts in a few slots.  I use lesser parts to keep costs down, mainly, although it is also helps with fitting on the always-tight CPU.
[Manticore, Wspace Hunter]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II 
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Alumel-Wired Sensor Augmentation, Scan Resolution Script
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I
Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron 
Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Torpedo
Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Torpedo
Prototype 'Arbalest' Torpedo Launcher, Caldari Navy Scourge Torpedo
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Core Probe Launcher II, Core Scanner Probe I 
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I
Small Bay Loading Accelerator I
This Manticore can gank most of the soft targets that you'll find in wspace: most transports, Noctises (strangely, some people still use them), salvaging destroyers, scouting frigates, and mobile tractor units.  It can kill Epithals if it gets enough shots in, but it typically cannot stop them because only idiot Epithal pilots fit less than three warp core stabilizers.  It is weak against Ventures because it does not apply a lot of damage to them, particularly if they are moving (as they ought to be), and it does not have enough warp scrambling to overcome their built-in +2 warp core stabilization.

What about ganking battleships?  Or other big/slow but armed targets?  I am afraid I have never done it.  I'd love to do it someday, but here's the problem.  Stealth bombers have two weaknesses: missiles (which always apply at least a little damage to your tissue-paper tank), and drones.  Most people in wspace do PVE in T3s and drone boats.  There is little point in optimizing your bomber to deal with a target you'll never actually see.  Nor for a target you simply cannot kill before it kills you.

Variant Fittings

I fly Caldari because I when I was looking at which frigate V to get, the Manticore seemed the most easy to fit good fits in.  I still like the Manticore more than the other stealth bombers.  It has the most CPU, allowing it to fit all the stuff you see above.  The disadvantages of the Caldari ships, which are larger signature and lower speed/maneuverability, are not very important when you are ganking.

That said, the performance of all bombers is quite similar.  All get around 500 DPS.  The four-midslot models (Manticore and Nemesis) generally get a little less raw DPS but can fit a target painter, which is better against most targets.  The three-midslot models (Hound and Purifier) have to face the hard decision of which midslot module to sacrifice: the target painter (and its +36% damage against most ships), or the sensor booster.  I'd probably give up the sebo (and thus most pods), but I'd rather not have to make that choice.

As I noted previously, I use several lesser-meta fittings.  If you are rich, go ahead and use meta-4 or tech II.  If you are really rich, then you might use various faction or deadspace parts to improve performance.

Don't bother with T2 launchers.  They do a bit more damage, but it's not worth the much higher CPU required.  They do much more damage if you use rage torpedoes, but you very likely won't, because as previously noted the very low incidence of gankable big ships in wspace.

One fitting that's worth extra thought in the Hyperion era is the microwarpdrive.  Formerly, a MWD was vital not for hunting per se but for moving around in wspace.  However, it is much less so with the new guarantee that you'll never appear within decloak distance of a wormhole.  We might replace it with an afterburner (which would be of some help fitting in non-Manticore bombers).  Or we may drop the prop mod completely.  This seems risky to me, but one rarely sees interdictors, and it would allow an extra midslot item.

That said, for now I am keeping my microwarpdrive.  The thought of being caught by a Sabre with no microwarp scares me.

Anti Venture

I noted above the weakness that my fit has against small stuff, Ventures in particular.  Because of this, I have a second fit which uses light missiles.  [Update: rockets are better if you have the skills; see this comment below.]
[Manticore, Anti Venture]
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II 
Alumel-Wired Sensor Augmentation, Scan Resolution Script
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Limited 1MN Microwarpdrive I 
Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Light Missile
Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Light Missile
Light Missile Launcher II, Caldari Navy Mjolnir Light Missile
Covert Ops Cloaking Device II
Core Probe Launcher II, Core Scanner Probe I 
Small Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I
Small Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I
This fit is sufficiently similar to the main one that you can carry around the diffs in cargo (along with a mobile depot).  When you find a Venture, usually it is sucking gas for a while.  So, if he is not alert to dscan and the discovery scanner, you will have the time to go and refit at a distant planet.  (Or if no planet is safely out of view, in a nearby system.)  This fit has a small fraction of the DPS, but applies it well against small, fast things.  More importantly it has the two scramblers needed to deny the Venture the ability to warp.  I expect you can kill a Venture with torpedoes if you don't want to carry the full refit, but you do need the second warp scrambler.

Note the use of Mjolnir missiles.  Ventures have one low slot and three mids.  If they tank at all, they shield tank.  And stealth bombers get no damage bonuses for non-torpedoes.  As such, go ahead and use whatever missile type you think is best.  I think it is Mjolnirs.

Anti Epithal?

For a while, I also carried around a third warp scrambler with the hopes of using three warp scramblers to pin Epithals.  This is a fine idea in theory, but in practice there is a huge difference between planet-gooers and gas-suckers: gas suckers have to be in a gas site for tens of minutes or hours.  This is plenty of time for you to refit and return.  By contrast, an Epithal is out of a POS and not in warp for perhaps 10 seconds per CO.  Neither does it take much time to set up a PI run.  Because of this, by the time you see someone refit into an Epithal it's too late to refit: you want to watch him right now because if he is going to leave the POS at all, he's likely to do it within the next minute or two.  There's just not the time to go off and hide, refit, and return.

As things stand, I basically cannot kill Epithals except that I get lucky and they are poorly fit.  Such is life.  It's still thrilling to try, and surprisingly many are poorly fit.  (I do lament the reasoning, if there was any such, that went into converting a ship with a large cargohold and four lowslots into a ship without a substantial cargohold that got the same four lowslots.  What did CCP think would happen?)

Thursday, September 4, 2014


It's late evening, and I am sneaking around in the post-Hyperion wormhole space, looking for someone to kill.  I scanned down C5a, the C5 system found through our new static connection.  It has only one other connection, its own static to C3.

Now I enter the new system, C3a.  My dscan from the wormhole shows two ships and two towers.  A Cheetah and a Zephyr.  The ships might be interesting, if they are not empty at a tower.  They probably are empty at a tower.  Still, they might not be.  I will find out.  I move off the wormhole and cloak.

I raise the system map.  My wormhole sits near to the outer edge of the system, between the second most outer planet and the outer planet.  The towers are both around the system's outer planet.  I warp to the planet to have a look.  From closer, I can see that both ships are at one of the towers.  That's the one I want.  I narrow the search progressively until I find the right moon.  I warp in at 100 km.

Both ships are empty.  Oh, well.  It's what you expect, but even so it's always a small letdown when you find it.

 Something is strange... Oh.  The tower is reinforced.  It has seventeen hours to go.  I won't be around then, so I don't see any way to exploit it.  But it is unusual, at least.  One very rarely finds reinforced towers in wspace.  I have seen no signs of a siege, such as ships or probes, and the tower is not bubble-wrapped.   So I am not sure what's going on here.  I can see, however, that the tower has no defenses at all anchored around it.  That's probably why it got reinforced in the first place.  Perhaps someone reinforced it trying to draw a fight, and did not stay to finish the job.

Or maybe the aggressors are here, but cloaked and not aggressively using their discovery scanners.  Worth keeping in mind.

Then I notice something odd: there are some POS batteries on grid, but they are not in range of the tower.  In fact they -- four of them -- are about 150km from it.  I look closer, and indeed they are unanchored.  Being unanchored means they are free for me (or anyone) to scoop.  All I have to do to take them is get here in a ship with enough cargo space to scoop them.  The modules are an ECM, two warp scrambler batteries, and one warp disruption battery.  Their total worth is not more than a few million ISK each.  But still, you almost never see loose wealth sitting around in wspace.  I wants it.

My plan is simple: get my alt Otto online, into an Iteron V, and come in here to grab them.  They are far enough separated from each other that I will have to bounce a lot.  To that end, I bookmark each of the modules.  I'll make a nearby safespot as I warp in.  But I need to be certain that the system is safe, first, and I have not looked at the whole system.  So I warp to the inner system for a look around.

There are two more towers in the inner system, and one ship.  I find the one with the ship.  Like the outer POS, the ship is empty.  And like the outer POS, this one is also reinforced and has nothing anchored.  Odd.

In any case, the system has nobody home, at least not that I can tell.  That's favorable for my plan to grab and go.

I log Otto then spend a few minutes refitting one of our Iteron Vs for the scoop.  I won't need its full cargo capacity, just 16000m^3.  So I remove some cargo expanders and put in warp core stabilization.  The mids are all fine, so I am ready.

Before Otto leaves my own POS, I want to get Von into position.  He will sit on grid with the outer-planet's POS.  His dscan there covers the outer planets as well as the wormhole I came in, from C5a.  That's where Otto will be coming in from (and leaving to), so it is worth being able to see it.

Von warps back to the outer POS, which I bookmarked earlier.  As he gets close, I dscan, and now I see something new.  There is a Crane on dscan, as well as a pod.  Someone must have just logged in, and is switching ships at one of the POSes.  I hope it is the one I am about to get to... and I land on grid.  No, it is not.  Well, it must be the other POS.

I get up the system map, zoom in, and set to work with scan.  My first scan at 180 degrees chops out roughly half the moons.  Then I scan at 90 degrees, and to my surprise I see the pod and Crane, but not the other tower.

The pod and the Crane are out in space.  Not at the other POS.  I forget all about Otto: it's hunting time!
Now why would a ship and pod be out in space like that?  I cannot fathom.  They are not at the planet, but they might be at a moon.  I quickly discover that yes, they are at moon 14.  Or at least, they are the 15 degree arc in the direction of moon 14.  I warp to moon 14 at 10km, on the theory that if they want to be found there, they'll be at 0.  A trap?

I land on grid, and sure enough they are there, but 100km from me.  A pod and Crane, as promised.  The Crane has no pilot, evidently just abandoned by the capsuleer in the pod.  A pod.  Just sitting there.  Must kill... then steal Crane.

I look carefully and can see they are close to being in line to an inner planet.  It's 20AU, but if I bounce off it and warp back at 100km, I should be pretty close to them.
A handy point to warp at.
I order the warp.  Just as I do, something changes on my overview, but I miss exactly what.  Then I am in warp.  And I land, and turn and warp back at 100km as planned.

As I warp back into range, I dscan, and the Crane's still there.  But the pod is gone.  Instead, there's a corpse.  Ah.  Evidently this guy managed to trap himself in this system with no scanner and/or probes, and I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time to see his suicide.  (That's what I saw change on my overview: pod to a corpse.)

I land on grid, and indeed I am but 10km from the Crane.  I quickly move to scoop the corpse, which is quite incriminating if anyone is around to dscan, then recloak.  I circle the crane at 7500m.  I cannot fly it.
How pretty EVE is!

I want it.  A crane is worth, oh 130m or so, and who knows what might be in it.

I cannot fly it.

There are three things I might do.  I could just blow it up.  I could text Jayne and hope he's awake and can bring in one of his characters who can fly a Crane.  Or, I could bring an Orca down from my home system to scoop it.  Bad idea, too risky.

I text Jayne.  He responds almost immediately.  He'll come.  So, I set my orbit around the Crane at 7500 km.  If someone else comes for it in a pod, I'll attack.  

Jayne gets online and I get him on coms.  I explain the situation, and he gets ready to go.  Then he heads out ahead of Otto.  (Yes, I still do want those POS modules.)  Von sees nothing change; all is well.  Jayne gets through C5a, and into the system.  I move up to orbit at 2500 while he does this, so he can warp to me at zero.  He comes in, warps to me, as I move back.  He's into the Crane -- it's fully fit, including covert ops cloak.  I see him disappear

Now we grab all four of the POS modules, two each.  Then we GTFO.  We don't see a soul.
Scoop scoop.

Later, I happen to raise the local chat window to look at a wormhole timing.  I see there was a call for help from the Crane's pilot.  I rarely see local chat in a timely fashion since I turned off the blinking.
A call unseen and unheeded.
I am kind of glad I did not see this in time.  I might have wanted to help, but since I had no scanned path out, I had little to offer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Max Mass Info in Wormhole Info Window

I mentioned last week that the new small wormholes have a problem, that from the K162 side you cannot know they are small without attempting to cross, which is dangerous.  I complained about that, and I think a lot of others did too.  CCP has heard us.  Wormhole info windows now show a new last line giving an indication of the maximum ship mass allowed to pass that wormhole.
Info on a X877 (C4 to C5)

Info on a H296 (C5 to C5)
I did not have time find a small wormhole, nor for that matter a C1 wormhole.  Presumably those have their own unique messages, too, according to their different mass limits.

This is a good change.  Thanks CCP.  (And probably also thanks to our CSMs.)

I'd still like to be able to identify small K162s via some other method than info.  I.e. my suggestion of giving them a different tag than K162 on their K162 side.  Or they could represent them visually differently.  If I had that, then I would not need to get info on wormholes 95% of the time.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Nimble Epithal

The weekend.  The long weekend.  I am out for a roam, hoping for a decent connection to highsec.  These are rarer these days, what with the dual static in C4s.  Still, ya gotta try.

I enter a new system, a C3.  A normal dscan shows a tower and an Epithal.  Probably nothing, but only one way to be sure.  I bookmark the wormhole, then move off and cloak.  Then I get busy with dscan, pointing at various planets until I find the right one.  I warp over to a moon, then proceed to interrogate the moons until I have the right one.  Finally, I land on grid.

Sure enough, there's the Epithal, idling at the tower.  Now I'd like to refit, because I am in my general purpose ganking fit: torpedoes, sebo, target painter, and one scrambler.  You need at least two scramblers for Epithals, and usually three.  Yeah, three.  For a Tech 1 one ship that costs less than a million ISK.  Are these balanced ships?  Don't think so.  Be that as it may, Epithals are what they are.  (CCP!)  And right now, I have no time nor privacy to refit.

I look for outer planets, but the minutes it would take to refit I might lose the quarry altogether.  Also, I have given up on the third warp scrambler, deeming it too rarely used to be worth carrying around.

So I sit.

I sit only a minute, and the target moves!  Where?  She is aligning to...  a planet!  Glory be.

I watch her warp, then warp to the same planet's CO at 10km.  I don't want to tip my hand too soon.

Warping, I prepare for what I'll do: head at her, uncloak, get sebo on, lock, try to bump.

I land on grid.  There she is, about 10km off. I head at her, and uncloak.  Quickly I get my sebo on then lock her, and I get activate my weapons systems.  I turn on the microwarp to try for a bump.

She's locked.  My weapons open up, she's hit, and ...

She warps.  Dammit.  But I saw her damage levels, and I hurt her a lot.

I am ready for the warp.  I spin around the view to see where she goes, and it's a planet.  It must be a CO, since she got into warp so fast.  I doubt that she ordered it before she saw me.  So I warp to that CO, this time at zero.  She knows I am here; there's no point in concealment any longer.  It takes me a second to get into warp because my microwarp is still on.  Drat.

I land on grid, and there she is.  I'm just 3000m from her.  My sebo is still going.  As soon as I am out of warp I am locking her, then activating my weapons systems.  Then I head at her, hoping to bump.

My lock completes.  My weapons open up, and boom.  She's gone.   Two rounds, one per grid. That was fast.

I am stunned for a second, but rally and start locking the pod.  The pod also appears stunned; she does not warp immediately.  My warp scrambler is almost there... the lock is almost there...

She warps.  Crap.  Well, a kill is a kill, and I move in to loot.  There is nothing of value, of course, the enemy having had plenty of time to stash whatever she had in the local POCO(s).  I get a few cheap Epithal fittings.  But it's not a passel of warp core stabilizers I do this for: it's the kills.  And that, I have. +1.

Later, I check out the Epithal's fit.  For some reason, she wanted an afterburner.  To get that, she had to give up a large shield extender.  And thus her hitpoints were so low that I could pop her in two rounds.  Yo PI gooers: this is a bad idea.  You don't need to afterburn out of bubbles: if you're in a bubble, you're dead.  You do need to deal with stealth bomber torpedoes, and this is more true than ever with the advent of small wormholes in Hyperion.