Life in a Wormhole: Exploiting the Neighbors #eveonline

Wormhole systems are categorized into six classes. The differences between these classes is primarily in the relative strength of the Sleepers that inhabit the lost enclaves of the system, the value of the ores and other resources found in the system, and the persistent wormhole connections that each system is guaranteed to have at all times. Randomly generated wormholes might (and do) appear throughout both wormhole and known space (connnecting wormholes to other wormholes, wormholes to known space, known space to wormholes, and even known space to other areas of known space), but in a wormhole system, there must always be certain types of wormholes present at all times.

For instance, Class 1 systems -- the least dangerous and least profitable (both those being relative) -- always have some kind of connection to known space, though whether it's a persistent connection to highsec, nullsec, or lowsec varies.

Class 2 systems are notable in that they have two static connections, one to known space and one to a specific class of wormhole. This is particularly important to us, because we live in a class 2 system with a persistent connection to highsec and another to Class 1 wormhole space. It's possible this might be the most 'softball' kind of class 2 system, with an always-open route to (allegedly) the safest parts of known space, and a connection to the easiest sleeper combat sites (the Class 1) when there's nothing to shoot in our own system.

That said, I don't really care if it's an relatively easy wormhole to live in, because it's our first one and we don't have any wormhole veterans along for the ride to show us the ropes. You have to start somewhere, and we're enjoying the hell out of the whole experience already.

It is the static connection to class 1 space that I'm pondering today, because our current neighboring system is completely uninhabited and appears to have a static connection to the barren, unpopulated expanses of nullsec, which means it gets about as much tourist traffic as the world's second largest ball of twine.

Cawker City, Kansas Welcomes You.

It also means that system is positively cluttered with sleeper-infested cosmic anomalies. Now, none of these anomalies are that profitable individually, but when a solo pilot can grab a battlecruiser and wipe out a half dozen at his leisure, it starts looking pretty attractive. Since I'm alone in the tower at the moment, I decide to do a little yardwork on my neighbor's property.

I'm just a giver in that way.

An hour passes in quiet comtemplation and explosions, and while I sacrifice a few brave drones to the Sleepers' random target-switching algorhythm. CB logs in while I'm wrapping up a site and hops into a myrmidon to join me in the carnage. I've left enough wrecks in my wake that I'm about at the point where I need to hop into a salvaging ship and clean up my mess, and I show him the way to the class 1 by the simply expediency of jumping through the wormhole and waiting on our side until he can warp to my location. Once he does so, I warp down to our tower and he jumps through the wormhole.

Just as that tag-in takes place, CB asks me if I have scanning probes out in our home system - a question he probably already knows the answer to, since the names of the probes are using a cyrillic alphabet. Eve's regional localization sometimes make gathering intel about visitors to our system quite easy; we have a russian tourists in our wormhole -- one flying a Vagabond heavy assault cruiser and the other an Anathema covert operations frigate -- the rest of our plans are put on hold while we deal with that.

Ty can't (yet) fly covert operations frigates, and Bre has returned to her nullsec stomping grounds in Curse, so I don't have the ability to warp around the system while cloaked, which makes pinpointing the interlopers more difficult. Still, I scanned the system quite thoroughly earlier in the day, and I know there are only a few 'combat' anomalies, so I use directional scanner set to a narrow beam to determine which one of the sites Vagabond heavy assault cruiser is in, grab a ferox-class battlecruiser, and jump in to say hello.

Unfortunately, no one's there.

Well, not entirely true -- no one's there but a bunch of now-awakened Sleepers, and I retreat from their querelous greetings in a bit of confusion. I double-check d-scan and the two ships are still showing up in the direction I originally determined, and that's the only thing out in the direction from the tower, so what --

Oh. Hmm.

Actually, there ARE two sites out in that direction. One of them is the very common cosmic anomaly, and the other is the far less common, potentially far more valuable sleeper site that can be located only after extensive scanning, thanks to it's weak radar signature, and it's clear that that's where our visitors are.

Before, I was intrigued by the chance to jump the interlopers, but now I'm annoyed.

I prepare to jump to the radar site, instructing CB (who has been lurking in the neighboring system and thus conveniently off enemy d-scan) to jump through the wormhole and then warp to my location as I swoop down on the unsuspecting victims.

Well, allegedly unsuspecting. It turns out that while the russians may not have been too worried about my solo ship, they're more than willing to bug out as soon as two battlecruisers show up on scan, and I've no sooner landed than both the Vagabon and Anathema are warping away, leaving behind a site in which all the sleepers have been killed but... ah ha! none have been looted or salvaged.

Still, this isn't the time to switch to a salvaging boat -- our visitors are very likely still in-system -- they warped to distant moons, and not the current wormhole exit to highsec. CB, robbed of the opportunity for carnage, drops into his accustomed role on d-scan, while I warp to the wormhole exit in question. I won't be able to stop anyone from leaving, but at least I can verify their exit as they go, and that's exactly what happens: just as I drop out of warp near the wormhole, I see the vagabond swallowed by the wormhole and vanish from my overview. Perhaps they've all aready left.

Not so, says CB, as cyryllic probes are back on directional scan. Just three, though, which is a hard way to scan. That's odd.

So we sit, and wait, and watch.

The probes stay out for a bit, and are then recalled, though at no point do they come very near to me, where I am sitting on the wormhole, so I have no idea what the Anathema is scanning. I check the exit to the C1 system, and they aren't anywhere near there either.

A little bit later, the probes go back out, wander aimlessly around the system, are recalled, deployed, wander... et cetera.

This goes on for a bit. CB starts to wonder if the Anathema pilot is drunk or baiting us in some way. I am starting to wonder if the wrecks and loot in the C1 are going to disappear before I get a chance to get back there -- the clock is ticking.

But not for much longer. After about another five minutes, the pilot of the Anathema speaks up in local, confessing in broken English that only the Vagabond pilot remembered to make a bookmark to the location of the wormhole in our system, when they first arrived, so while the Vagabond left, the Anathema will have to scan the location out manually, and for some reason, he currently only has three probes on his boat, and he can't resolve the signature successfully.

Fail, as the kids say.

CB and I have a pretty good laugh over this and then, contrary to all known standard operating procedures for EVE, I offer to help him leave our system.

Now, before I lose my Wormhole Occupancy membership card, let me explain why.

1. I had sites to loot in the next system over that were worth far more than any gear a tiny covops frigate wreck would have.
2. The russians were leaving behind a lucrative site as well, probably worth more by itself than all the sites I'd already run, combined.
3. We could collapse the wormhole behind them, removing the chance of their return, if we so chose.
4. There was basically a snowball's chance in hell I'd ever catch the bloody frigate in any case, even if I wanted to do it violence.

Basically, I didn't want to arse around with the guy all night.

So dropped a bookmark in a neutral location, had him leave the system uncloaked so I could see him depart, and we went back to our original plans, satisfied that we had defended our territory, if not killed any ships along the way. CB ran overwatch while I cleared out the radar site as well as the sites I'd hit in the C1, and by the time that was over, Gor had logged in.

We got him caught up on recent events, and the three of us decided to hit more of the C1 systems, simply because our own system was (with the exception of the radar site) looking pretty barren. To speed things up, Gor and I did the shooting while CB cleaned up the wrecks in a dedicated salvage boat.

Things went pretty fast. I lost track of how many sites we did, but when we wrapped up for the night, we'd had collectively netted close to 200 million ISK. There are ways to make more money in a wormhole, but considering we'd basically just done Class One sites, that was a very good profit for a few hours' worth of shooting, with a little Vagabond hunting thrown in to keep things interesting.

All in all, a pretty good evening.


Life in a Wormhole: Valuable Resources #eveonline

Apparently, one of the things that happened while I was putting together how-to scanning videos was CB's triumphant return to the wormhole. When I log in, he's already online, tucked into a new mining barge and tearing shiny hunks of ore out of innocent asteroids.

This time, however, he's adopting Gor's "relay mining" practice, which involves mining until your hold is full, then jumping back to the safety of the tower to dump it off.  I'm given to understand that the process also involves some sort of bookmarking method that means the ship never stops moving at any point, even while mining -- basically the two of them are doing Top Gun-style flybys on the asteroid field, filling up their hold in a single pass and warping off just as they reach the outer limit of their mining lasers' effective range. Gor tried explaining the set up to me the day before, and I got lost somewhere around the second sentence, but CB apparently grasped the concept immediately and was already implementing by the time Gor was done talking.

Just goes to show you who the real industrialists are in this corp, and who is just killing time until the next sleeper enclave pops up. At least I'm good at scanning.

While CB acquires eve-tangible goods to haul to market, I'm testing out a few tips gleaned from some of our more intangible resources. Life in a wormhole has been an eye-opening experience for all of us, not least of all Gor who, while a veteran EVE player, hasn't spent much if any time in wormholes.

We do a lot (and I mean a LOT) of reading and research when we're offline, trying to get a handle on everything we need to know to keep from immediately getting squished. Some of those  include:

  • A Guide to Everything Wormhole: The alliance member who first gave me the location of our home suggested we read this, then re-read it. I'd actually already found the document and read it a few months ago, but I took a second look, and with the added context of actually being in a wormhole, it proved to be the best possible reference I could hope for. It isn't one hundred percent applicable to our situation, as the author assumes a larger corporation in a "deeper" wormhole, but almost all of the generic info has proven invaluable, and certainly saved our butts several times over.

  • A Guide to Player-Owned Structures. As hard as our first night setting up the Tower was, it would have been a hundred times worse without this (and several other) guides explaining how everything should be done for best effect.

  • Living in a Wormhole, from the Eve University Wiki. I'll always be loyal to my Online University of Celestial Hardship crew, but Eve Uni has had a long and respectable life as a corporation dedicated to teaching new players everything they can about everything there is to know within EVE. Doesn't matter if it's trading, industry, PvP, or mission running -- they're training material is top notch, and I say that as someone who gets paid to design training material for online consumption. This page covers the basics, and covers them quite well.

  • Killing in the Hole, a Guide to wormhole PvP. A more recent find, perhaps most valuable to us for knowing what sorts of things visiting predators will try, but it's also got a lot of good information on the basic mechanics of how wormholes work and how not to paint yourself into a corner when the time comes to heat the guns up.

  • Tiger Ears - an online journal of a pilot in wormhole space. Penny is much less an industrialist and more of a PvP enthusiast, but nevertheless I find the posts incredibly educational, entertaining, and interesting. Sometimes, the post shows me something I need to watch out for when dealing with potential predators in our wormhole; sometimes they give me an idea about something I can try when it comes time to blow up a vagrant in our system; and sometimes they're yet another tip about how to improve my scanning skills. In all cases, they're a bright spot in my GReader stream.

  • Dude, where's my wormhole? - A post by Penny's "fearless leader", Finn, on how to manually and purposefully collapse a wormhole you'd rather not have in your system. Situational, but no less valuable for that.

  • Finally, I do a lot of exploring and mapping as I scan down our new wormhole exits, and when I'm in the midst of those celestial peregrinations, I made heavy use of the Wormhole Systems Database to tell me about whatever system I find myself, Dotlan to give me an idea of the level of recent activity in both our wormhole and any connecting systems (it helps to know if there's been a lot of violence in a system I'm about to explore), and Wormnav to tell me what I should be looking for in a system before I launch my probes.

That said, the best teacher is experience, and not everyone can figure out how someone works by reading about it -- they have to suffer though their own personal learning curve to finally figure something out.

Case in point: I ask CB and Gor whether the scanning videos I put together helped them out at all. CB says that he's never been able to learn anything from watching videos, and Gor said he thought they were good, but they didn't help him at all.

Gor goes on to explain the method he's using to get successful hits on his system scanning, but the pain it inflicts on me causes a ringing in my ears that drowns out the last half of the explanation. I comfort myself in the knowledge that, if pressed, they could both find their way back to known space.

And that I'll never need to watch them doing it.

Sometimes, that's the best you get.


Life in a Wormhole: The Fine Art of Scanning #eveonline

As I've already mentioned, the use of scanning probes to tri-, quad-, or quintangulate on various cosmic phenomena is a critical part of life in a wormhole. Without the ability to scan, there is very little for a pilot to do in a wormhole system -- sure, there are a handful of cosmic anomalies so blatant that even your ship's onboard scanner can find them, but other than that? If you want to take advantage of the incredible mineral wealth available in a wormhole, you need to scan. Same goes for harvesting gas clouds or raiding the ancient technology and archeological treasures of whatever culture the Sleepers were originally created to protect.

And that  says nothing about finding the wormholes themselves -- those precious lifelines that connect your system to other systems and (eventually) to Empire space (also known as "that place where we go to get supplies").

CB has likened the first couple days of wormhole living to a weekend of camping -- you're out in the wilderness, except that every day someone runs back to town to buy whatever it is that we've realized we've forgot. That will eventually get better (I hope), but in the meantime it requires a lot of scanning, which is something CB still isn't entirely comfortable with. Gor is even less comfortable -- it's fair to say that he begins every scanning session with the heavy sigh of a doomed gladiator entering the Ring of Death.

At their request, I agree to download a copy of Fraps and put together a couple videos showing exactly how I'm able to scan down cosmic signatures in the system.

Part 1 and Part 2 are amusing, in that I'm using suboptimal equipment and decide to scan down a particularly difficult signature... which mean I ultimately fail to successfully scan down the site. Part 3 and part 4 are more successful, though the audio quality isn't as good.
(Note: if you don't play EVE, you probably won't enjoy watching all of this stuff, unless it's to hear me babble, which is sometimes amusing.)

There are lots of scanning training videos out there, and almost all of them are better than these, I suppose, but I like them because they're mine.

What else happened the day I made the videos? I don't know -- I was teaching myself Fraps.


Life in a Wormhole: Don't Shoot the Good Guys #eveonline

The formidable weaponry of our fully armed and operational battle station has been brought to bear on a hapless intruder into our system! The pilot warped close to the moon our tower orbits, decloaked within the (formidable) range of our guns, and got their ship popped. The fool! They will know better the next time they --

Wait, what? It was one of our own guys?


Specifically, it was Bre, who actually isn't part of our corporation, just a friend. In fact, she's supposed to be marked as a trusted friend of the corporation, and we thought the tower guns understood that, but when we think about it, we realize that she's been flying a cloaked covert ops ship almost a hundred percent of the time, and has never actually been visible to the guns at any point, except when she was safely inside the tower shields.

Until now.


The reason Bre was decloaked outside the tower was to set up a pair of 'mailboxes' outside our tower and the tower of ze Germans -- password-locked containers, floating in space, where our two corporations can leave each other bookmarks to all the cosmic locations we scan down -- just one more way we can establish a good relationship with our neighbors.

(I don't think I put this much effort into getting to know the people I actually live next to.)

Bre was handling this part of the project simply because she's the best scanner we have and she can fly around the system without fear of enemy ambush (friendly ambush is another story).

I'm annoyed that we still haven't gotten the security on the tower set up correctly, and the Germans sympathize, because they still haven't figured out how to get their tower to stop shooting at us either, which seems to embarrass them more than a little.

In fact, they seem to feel particularly bad about the fact that Bre's ship was destroyed while she was distributing bookmarks for their corp as well as ours, and three of their leaders each send her a sizable bit of isk to compensate her for the loss -- more than enough to replace and refit her covert-ops frigate. This makes quite a good impression on us -- words are nice, but actions speak considerably louder, and in EVE, actions involving money speak loudest of all.

The Germans send their condolences.

The tengus slumming in our system the night before seem to have cleared out all the local sleeper sites, but luckily we have a persistent connection to class 1 wormhole space. Some exploration reveals that there are dozens of small pockets of the semi-dormant homocidal drone ships in that small abandoned system, so I start cracking them open and pulling out their candy-like ancient technologies while Bre builds herself a shiny new Buzzard cov-ops ship.

I'm going after the Sleepers solo, because Gor is out for the day and CB is still back in Empire space after his encounter with roaming bombers the night before, but my Myrmidon battlecruiser takes longer to reach the ships than blow them up. I bookmark a wreck in each site, leaving them in my wake as I go, so that the cleared sites despawn and drop off of the system scanner. The wrecks will remain for several hours, but there won't be an easy way for ... let's say ... a pair of stealth bombers to locate and drop in on me when I come back in my salvager ship.

CB is online, however, and we chat on voice while I slap the evil drones around. He's still analyzing the ambush, and bemoaning the loss of so much ore. Our lessons learned from the event are two-fold; CB decides he need to adopt a 'save early, safe often' mindset, and 'waste' some time flying the ore back to the safety of the tower more often than he's used to doing in high security space. For my part, I think it's fairly likely the fragile bombers would have left CB alone if he'd had a pointier ship nearby -- rather than running around doing errands, we might have saved ourselves a ship loss if I'd played bodygaurd the night before; you'll always be safer with a friend than flying solo.

In fact... it occurs to me that I'm solo right now, and flying a fragile salvager ship. Hmm.

I hurry the last of the post-combat cleanup and skitter on back to the tower. There's plenty of time left in the evening, but I think I can wait to share the profit (and risk) with another pilot.


Life in a Wormhole: If you're going to be a Criminal, be a Smart Criminal #eveonline

Over emails the next day, CB points out that instead of a floating tower in space with guns, e-warfare modules, shield hardeners, portable factories, and room for dozens upon dozens of ships... we could have instead invested that same 1.5 billion isk and bought a single monocle from EVE's new online vanity clothing store.

Jeez, when you put it THAT way, the price of the monocle starts to seem kind of ridiculous.

Luckily, it seems that we have overcome our shame at foolishly spending our hard-earned fauxcash on useful stuff; CB has been trying his hand at scanning the system, and when I log in he gleefully announces he found a number of Gravimetric signatures (signifying uncharted asteroid belts full of lovely rare ores) to plunder.

"If you've already found the sites, don't tell me," he says, before I can congratulate him, "I'm riding the high of actually scanning something down."

At this point, I am the defacto scanner for corp, having spent a lot of time practicing the use of multiple scanning probes to triangulate (well, in my case, quintangulate) the location of various uncharted phenomena in space. In known space, this is handy skill to have, as it will show you the location of hidden asteroid belts, valuable gas clouds, and even ancient ruins and hidden smuggler bases.

In wormholes, however, scanning graduates from "handy" to "absolutely vital", because you basically can't DO anything in a wormhole system until you scan down its location... including leave -- so I'm really pleased to see my corpmates trying their hand at it. All of their characters have the requisite skills for scanning (we wouldn't have come out here, otherwise), but it's another thing entirely to successfully manipulate the interface and actually find anything.

Gor, in fact, is still struggling with that part of the equation; despite the fact that his character, gear, and ships are, numerically speaking, actually better at scanning than mine, I can usually resolve the cosmic locations of every signature in the system before he manages to find one. Given that, I think there must simply be something he's doing wrong with the interface, making triangulation impossible, but that kind of thing is very hard to coach over voicechat. I resolve to find some good training videos on the subject.

In any case, Gor seems perfectly happy to make use of CB's scanning success, and the two of them are currently mining to their hearts' content in one of the aforementioned gravimetric sites. As always, CB is diligently watching his d-scan, dumping ore into a jettisoned storage canister, while Gor practices a bit more paranoia by flying back to the tower and emptying his ship after every load.

I'm not much of a miner (don't have the skills to make it super-profitable, or the patience to make it sustainable), so I decide to jump out of the wormhole and run back to our distant highsec home to pick up another ship I realize I want to have around. Gor calls it a night while I'm still on my return trip, and I get back to the tower to find CB filling his fourth jet-can.

"It's full of stars," he says. "Actually, it's full of rocks, but they're really pretty rocks."

I jump out to the asteroid belt to look around, agree that some of the rocks are, in fact, quite pretty, then return to the tower to do a bit more post-move maintenance work, chatting with CB over voice as we both keep ourselves busy.

"I've got --" CB cuts off the conversation "Missiles. I'm getting hit with missiles. I'm getting frakking bombed."

There's a very short pause. "They got the ship. There's two of em."

I've barely had time to ask a question. "Are they --"

"They're in local," CB says. "Asking for ransom for my escape pod."

Kryaa > 200mil or your dead

Kryaa > you have 15 seconds

TyD > Kryaa, that's an unwired clone belonging to a relatively young pilot. You've already blown up the ship, which was the most valuable thing out there, and we have a static connection to highsec, so getting back here is easy. Be reasonable.

Kryaa > 5 seconds

TyD > Then no. You want to be paid, ask for something reasonable. 200 million is stupid.

TyDy > We'll happily pay a reasonable sum, but that's silly.

"Yeah," says CB, "they popped me."

"Sorry man." I was in entirely the wrong ship to fly to his rescue, and if I'd switched ships as I typed, they would have popped him immediately.

"S'alright," CB mutters. There's silence on the line for a bit, then: "DAMN I should have hauled that ore back in more often."

He's doing exactly what I do after a fight -- analyzing the mistakes, and what could have been done better. It's our first time in a wormhole, and we're new to how things work -- we expected to lose ships, which is why we brought so many. But it still sucks.

"You want to fly back tonight?"

"Nah," he says, "you know my rule."

I nod. If you lose a ship, log out before you lose another one. Come back later. Come back calmer. It's a good rule, even if I almost never follow it myself.

I reach into the corp accounts and wire a chunk of isk his direction. "Pick up some skill wires for your new head, and don't forget to update your clone."

"That's too much money," he comments.

"Eh," I shrug. "Put together something fun to fly back in. I'll assemble a new miner for you, and we'll tag team the site next time."

"You hate mining," he comments.

"I hate lots of things," I reply. "I get over it."

He logs, and I jump into a covert scanning boat to take a look around the system. CB's jettisoned canisters are gone, no doubt destroyed in a fit of pique by the idiot ransomeers flying stealth bombers far too small to haul the ore home, and it looks like we have new visitors to the system; a trio of tech-level-3 cruisers slumming in a class 2 system and shooting Sleeper ships that they hopelessly outmatch. That behavior alone makes me suspect they're the same pilots as the ones that bombed a lone miner and asked for a 200 million isk bounty.

One of my characters happens to be a member of a group of folks who actually make a fairly decent income via ransoms. In highsec, I deplore the practice, but it doesn't bother me in lawless areas like nullsec and wormhole space, because the folks that live out there know the risks and (sometimes) pay the price. C'est la EVE. I don't engage in the practice, personally, but I have studied the after action reports of the members of that corp, and in general I like how they operate:

  • Always honor the deal, no exceptions. A pirate who doesn't honor his agreements will never get paid.

  • Adjust your ransom based on the target. 6 year old character with 54 million skill points can afford (and will be willing to pay) a damn sight  more to save their clone than a six-month-old character.

  • Be professional.

I actually like how my old training-corp (Open University of Celestial Hardship) does it even more: no bounties. They're "running military ops, not toll booths", in the words of one instructor.

But I think about how that professional pirate group manages these sorts of things, and my opinion of CB's ambushers drops another notch. They rushed -- probably because they were scared that they'd get jumped by backup -- but most of all they just asked for too much; like a professional hitman beating up a first-grader for his lunch money and then demanding a thousand dollars, it's stupid: you won't get paid, and the only thing you'll have to show for it is scuffed knuckles. It's not like you can really even brag about the fight that much: it was just a first-grader, after all.

So, that's our third night in the wormhole. Up a lot of ore, even with some lost, down a quite cheap ship, and out some cash to help a corpmate rebound.

Most importantly, a learning experience.

In the end, I think we made out better than the would-be pirates.

Time will tell.


Life in a Wormhole: The Moving-day Hangover

It's one of those days you remember from college; everyone's moving a bit slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible, and talking in subdued tones -- sometimes even whispering.

It's Hangover Day in the wormhole, following our all-nighter getting the tower set up and making diplomatic arrangements with our unexpected German neighbors.

I'm online and doing things many many hours ahead of anyone else, "thanks" to my status as the father of a five-month old; Sean doesn't give a damn whether I got any sleep the night before, so I'm blearily feeding the boy and checking through our to-do list after not nearly enough hours asleep. There are a few modules we didn't have time to bring online the night before, and one that we left floating unanchored inside the tower's bubble as an experiment (to see if the schedule downtime to make it disappear -- it didn't), so I take care of that and make a (very short) list of stuff we need to pick up from outside that it seems we forgot.

Some of the Germans are online as well, and while I'm thinking of it, I set up a communication channel to share between our two corporations and send the particulars out to the folks I've already spoken with. No sooner have I done so than folks start popping into the channel. Luckily for me, the person doing most of the talking is part of an international business concern and as such has very strong written English skills -- it keeps me from having to toggle over to Google translate too often.

(That said, I really can't sing the praises of Google Translate enough -- it's nice on websites, but for this kind of situation I think it's safe to say that any kind of serious, peaceful agreement between our two groups would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.)

We keep the chatter on the channel nice and neutral -- just talking generalities and making introductions -- everyone is still kind of approaching this situation with their hands resting none-too-subtly on the butts of their pistols, but it's a start.

I'm hopeful.

Wary, but hopeful.


Life in a Wormhole: ... if it is possible to avoid hitting. #eveonline

I drafted my evemail, aiming for a mix of "we're all just trying to get along" and "we have no intention of slinking on home", copied the whole thing into Google translate, and included both the English and German versions in the body of the message. When I hit send (directing it toward the CEO of the corp that seemed to own the local tower), I also CC'd it to Gor and CB, then let them know I had done so while we all continued to haul equipment into the system and bring them online.

"I like it," commented Gor, several minutes later. "It may not do anything, but it couldn't have been said much better."

"Reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt," murmured CB.

I thought about that while I manhandled another ECM module into place. "I think I'll take that as a compliment."

"You should," he said.

Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft.

With that done, and knowing that we were timeshifted from the other corporation by anywhere from 9 to 12 hours and wouldn't hear anything back anytime soon, we returned our focus fully back to the tasks at hand, trying to rub the sleep from bleary eyes and taking periodic breaks to fetch another soda (me) or more tea (CB and Gor).

By this point, I'd gotten my orca-flying alt into the delivery chain and had started to haul assembled ships and other gear while the others focused on tower fuel and consumables. We were working well, but the mood had gotten considerably more grim, thanks to the looming threat of some kind of showdown with the other corp.

Now, to be fair, it's not as though PvP isn't a constant possibility in wormhole space. Like the unsettled west of colonial America, there are no rules of engagement and no security forces to hide behind. However, unless a particular corp takes a serious dislike to you, any PvP combat you encounter is much more likely to be short-term and somewhat limited in scope, thanks to the temporary nature of the wormholes that connect you with other systems (both in wormhole space and known space), and their mass limitations precluding both very large fleets or very large ships. We were all acclimated to the idea of potential violence, and had certainly brought in enough hulls to stay completely functional even if we lost ships, but the possibility of a long engagement with an entrenched enemy was simply not the specific kind of fun we'd signed up for.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I at least was pretty bummed at the turn of events.

CB (who had maintained a very healthy level of paranoid monitoring of d-scan) was the first to notice that there was now a ship at the other tower, quite a few hours sooner than I'd expected. There was very little doubt that he'd noticed us as well -- aside from the tower, multiple storage facilities, and armed tower defenses, I had just unceremoniously dumped well over a dozen ships into the space inside the the tower's shields, because my alt didn't yet have clearance to the ship hangar we'd set up, I didn't want to futz around with the labyrinthine corporate permissions menus on top of everything else I was doing, and the character (a dedicated non-combatant) couldn't fly most of the large 'pointy' ships himself to dock them properly.

All of that stuff was, I imagined, crowding our new neighbor's directional scan in a rather noticeable way.

So, knowing that he clearly knew we were there, and that he'd had time to see my evemail,  I decided to say hello in the local comms channel.

This, like starting up impromptu diplomatic negotiations, is something that Simply Is Not Done in wormhole space, but I figured I'd already broken a few taboos, so what were a few more. By doing this, I would be giving him easy access to intel on me, my corp, and my alliance -- all the stuff that had taken us quite a bit of time to dredge up earlier on his corp -- but again, I actually thought that having that information might encourage open negotiations.

After 20 minutes, it was clear that he had no intention of replying in kind.

So I opened up a direct, private line of communication. This, he eventually answered.

I don't have the exact log of the conversation handy, but it didn't last terribly long, in part because he didn't think his English was very good, and I knew my German was terrible. Also, at that point, there wasn't much to say.

"Well," I closed up the private channel. "He's not thrilled with the turn of events, and his plan for the wormhole is pretty much exactly the same as ours, so he's concerned that we're all going to be after the same resources."

"That's unfortunate," murmured Gor.

"He didn't say no," I continued, "he wanted to say no, I could tell, but he said he was going to talk to the rest of his alliance first, to see what they'll say."

"To see how fast they can get battleships here," CB said.

"Maybe," I said. "Obviously, that's what we plan for. How long until the scheduled downtime?"

"Two hours," Gor answered.

I looked over everything I still had to get functional in that time, one module at a time. "I should be able to get almost everything running," I said. "He's staying in his scanning boat, so we're not going to get jumped at this exact second, and we can see if he puts a warp bubble up on the wormhole or something, so let's keep moving."

Which is what we did, the grim situation now looking even darker.

While we worked, our neighbor put his own scanning probes into the system, no doubt trying to determine exactly where in the system we were located and what he was dealing with. We saw no reason to interfere with this, because trying to hide our numbers and material resources would only slow our own effort down.

By my estimate, he probably found our base and warped a stealthy covert ops boat within visual range of the tower right about when we dumped our third load of ships into the tower space and started storing them in the hangar.

"Let him look," I thought, "let him count up the piles of pointy ships and see if that's more convincing than the evemail."

I got no further communications from him, and we kept working on the tower, growling at the never-diminishing to-do list and the periodic warning messages now popping up on hour screen, telling us that the daily reboot of the Tranquility server would be happening in 1 hour... 45 minutes... and we should try to get somewhere safe.

"We're in a wormhole," someone muttered. "There isn't anywhere safe anymore."

Fifteen minutes before the downtime, as we were storing the few modules we'd decided could wait until the next day, I got a private comms request from someone I didn't recognize, a member of a corp from the same German alliance. I accepted.

We talked. His English was a lot better, we had a lot to say, and I was still trying to bring the Tower's last defenses online, so I was very silent on voice comms until we wrapped up.

"Well?" CB asked. "Are they sending battlecruisers or battleships?"

"Apparently," I drawled, "after talking things over, and hearing from the guy in our system about -- and I quote -- 'How organized you all are,' they have decided to agree to mutual non-aggression, and have in fact suggested we have a shared comms channel to use for mutual sharing of intel, to keep both of us a bit safer in here."

"They went for it." Gor sounded as though he wasn't sure if I was joking.

"They went for it," I confirmed. "And I suspect that it was at least in part because of this huge, scary-looking, pain-in-the-ass of a tower we've put together."

"I bet you're right," said Gor. "Which reminds me: are we online?"

I checked the readouts, looking for anything that was anchored but not powered up. "The board is green," I said. "We're online."

The warning for "Five minutes to reboot" popped up. I ignored it, trying to think of anything we'd forgotten.

"Pull your camera way back," said CB.

I did. Our tower hung in orbit around a barren moon, circling an invitingly temperate world. The tower's forcefield -- the wall of our little town -- undulated in the foreground of our starry backdrop like a jellyfish, wrapped around storage facilities and defenses; offensive modules jutting outward in every direction just outside the barrier.

"Quite the fortress," said Gor.

"Jesus it's pretty," CB -- not the most sentimental of our crew -- murmured. "I'm going to bed."

"Me too."

"Me too."

I signed off just as the "30 seconds to downtime" message came up, and headed for bed.

According to my clock, it was 5:29am.

A long damned night.

But we were home.


Life in a Wormhole: What do you mean, "Neighbors?"

There was a moment of stunned disbelief following CB's question. I hit d-scan several times on several characters and got nothing at all that looked like some other tower in the system. Questions shot back and forth, and after a few tweaks to my settings, I scanned again and saw it, plain as day.

Some other corp's tower, already set up. In OUR wormhole.

My first reaction was anger at whoever had set up the tower. Our alliance mate who'd first gotten me the location of the system had verified that it was clear of any habitation, and that was less than three days ago. Worse, the tower had been renamed from it's default, and that name began with specific ascii character -- one that Tira had seen the day before in this system, prepended to the name of a couple ships visible for few minutes while scanning, but which had later vanished -- I'd assumed they were explorers or tourists from known space and forgotten about them.  My initial thought on making this connection was that this tower was being set up by some kind of wormhole griefer -- a guy with a couple alts who waited in empty systems until some new group started setting up, then set up and harassed the newcomers for fun.

Secondly, I was angry at myself for not noticing the tower -- I had been using a very specific filter for my directional scan: one optimized for PvP activity (for obvious reasons). It was a set up that I'd gotten while working as part of pvp training with OUCH  (Open University of Celestial Hardship), and while it was great for spotting incoming ships, it didn't show towers at all, so while Tira and Bre had been diligently scanning for interlopers while Ty and Gor and CB assembled supplies, I'd completely missed the tower going up, which it seems have to been happening for the last day or so.

This impression was confirmed as soon as I located the tower, orbiting one of the many moons surrounding the gas giant at the outskirts of the system. Knowing what I now knew about the time it took to set up a tower, and seeing that there was no one online within the tower defenses at the moment, it was clear that this thing had gone up at least a day previous, and that I should have seen it.  While the tower wasn't as large as our own, guns and other defenses were definitely online and armed.

So Now What?

At this point, our situation was such that it would take more time to undo everything than it would to finish putting the base together, and quite frankly we were emotionally invested in the project now, not just invested in terms of time and faux money. A quick show of hands was all it took to make it clear that not even the most conflict-adverse wanted to leave; to be blunt we were ready to take the opposing tower down "manually", and we put out a call to allies throughout known space to see who was near the front door of the system and interested in a little violence.

Truly, we were fearsome.

While potential forces assembled, we continued to bring tower modules online as quickly as we could (the new neighbor certainly provided motivation) and did some research. A bunch of digging both inside and outside the game told us a few things about the corporation behind our neighboring tower.

  • They were relatively small.

  • They were closely integrated with a somewhat larger (but still smallish) alliance, all of whom seemed to be primarily interested in industry and some mission running.

  • They were German. (This was good, or at least better than some other options, from our point of view. Russians players, for example, have a reputation for ready violence.

  • On the possible-plus-side, they seemed to have a bit of a sense of humor (judging by the names of their ships and the tower), and the names in their membership roster were generally "In Character" and blessedly free of "xxXDeathXLordXxx"s and "Killxor"s.

By comparison, our own corp was larger, and part of a considerably larger alliance that, while it included a number of 'carebear' corps, also counted no less than three mercenary-for-hire and nullsec corps among it's membership. (And it didn't hurt that one of my characters was friends with a fair number of... "PvP Enthusiasts" in the Curse region.) Also, thanks to all the stuff we'd decided to bring in the way of tower defense, we were better defended in the system itself.

I looked this information over, reviewed the number of folks wiling to drop everything and come out here to blow up a tower (not that many on a late late Friday night leading into a holiday weekend), and keyed the voice comms.

"I've got a radical suggestion," I said, "it's stupid, but it just might work."

"What's that?"

"I'm going to talk to them," I replied, "and suggest we share the wormhole."

"Share..." they said, "in Eve?"

"It can't really hurt," I said, "and dammit, no one EVER tries talking. It's irritating. They're wormhole runners and industrialists -- they're like us -- they probably aren't going to really want a long, drawn-out fight any more than *we* do. They aren't that big, *we* aren't that big -- and there's more than enough stuff to do in here that we can all have fun and turn a profit."

I opened up my in-game email client and started putting together a message in as straightforward and easily-translatable vocabulary as possible.

"You think they'll listen?" CB asked. "They wake up and log in and see a new tower on their doorstep, and the new guys want to share?"

He had a point. It wasn't exactly fair. That said, we weren't terribly interested in fair at that point, or at least not "100% fair as agreed upon by a neutral third party"; we'd put a lot of work into this in a very short period of time and as far as we were concerned "fair" involved us realizing some benefit from our effort. Yes, they were here first, but we had a deeper well of potential allies in the event of violence, and we were negotiating from what would be (once the damned GUNS were online) a stronger position.

Besides, this was EVE, after all.

It's not like you get to call Dibs.


Life in a Wormhole: Time to Get Lost

Gor has advocated for starting the trip further into the evening, so as to avoid the prime hours of activity for the sorts of players who might find it amusing to blow up an Obelisk to see what's inside, and that seemed like a pretty good idea.

Friday afternoon came, and it was all hands on deck to make the move to wormhole space.

The only problem was, the wormhole wasn't cooperating. Tira had scanned it down and discovered that it was nearing the end of its lifetime (a wormhole will collapse for several reasons, one of which being old age), so we were stuck waiting for the thing to die and be replaced by the new persistent exit to known space.

We waited...

And waited...

Several hours passed (during which we made even MORE last minute impulse purchases), and still the old, feeble wormhole lingered. We were stuck; given how long it would take us to travel to the current exit system, the odds were very good that there would BE no exit by the time we got there, or (even worse) that it would collapse after we started the process of moving into the system, leaving some or most of our stuff stranded who-knows-how-many jumps away from the new front door.

We'd just about decided to fly a large ship over to the dying wormhole to try to get it to collapse manually when, wonder of wonders, the thing finally vanished on its own. Tira started scanning and we all crossed our fingers in the hope that our new entrance would be much closer to our current location.

No such luck. 27 jumps to make in a freighter. Ouch.

Still, the whole trip could be managed without leaving the relative safety of highsec empire space, so we called it a win and got flying. All in all, the trip was fairly uneventful -- potential pirates were inexplicably nonplussed by the Obelisk flying past them, even though they showed a remarkable (albeit nonlethal) interest in CB's industrial hauler and my battlecruiser.

Once we got to the 'front door' system, Gor docked the Obelisk and started unpacking the massive ship so that we could start moving things into the system.

That was our first hurdle: the Obelisk freighter was far too massive to fit through the wormhole itself, so everything had to moved into smaller, nimbler industrial haulers and taken into the system over the course of many trips.

How many?

Well, the haulers we were using were all configured to carry roughly twenty thousand cubic meters of cargo at a time. The Obelisk was packed to the gills, every bit of its over 800 thousand cubic meters put to use. You do the math -- it was like unloading a cargo ship into a series of moving vans.

What Goes in First

It didn't make much sense to bring anything into the system unless there was someplace to put it, so the first thing to go into the wormhole was our Tower -- a miniature space station that would form the core of our base of operations. Gor did the honors for this, with CB hauling in the fuel that the tower would need to power both its shields and all the other modules we planned to bring online. Everyone else was busy flying overwatch for this critical operation.

Critical and SLOW operation, I should mention. Once launched into space from the hauler, the tower had to be anchored to a static location in orbit around one of the system's many moons (a process that took a half an hour), and then fueled and brought online (another half hour). Our expectation was that once the tower was up, we could bring the support modules online much more quickly, simply because there were so many of us around to make that happen. (We would later get that expectation crushed like a delicate butterfly.)

After some initial confusion, we decided on a more central location for the tower; given the size of the system, it would be possible for our directional scanners to reach every celestial body, which maximized the chance that we'd spot any unwelcome visitors and unpleasant surprises.

Speaking of Unpleasant Surprises...

So let's do a little bit of math.

We've already spent almost three hours waiting for a brand-new wormhole to coalesce, roughly two hours to fly to the 'front door' and unload the Obelisk at the nearest station in known space, and well over an hour to get inside the wormhole, figure out where we wanted the tower to go, and get it anchored and online.  On any normal night, we probably would have been close to the point in the evening where we'd start making preparations to log out.

But this wasn't a normal night. In this case, we were just getting started, but we were committed to the endeavor at this point and, even knowing we'd be up for many more hours, we were pretty excited about how things were going.

"Okay," Gor said, "the tower's up, and the shield is recharging. What should be online next?"

"Guns," came the unanimous reply.

Gor didn't argue, and we started our second supply run for more tower modules. He managed to get the first gun anchored and coming online before announcing two frustrating facts:

1) Placing the tower modules was a huge pain in the ass, and took twice as long as actually onlining the module once it was in place.

2) Only one module could be brought online at a time, regardless of how many people were there to help, because it was the tower, not the characters, that was doing the onlining.

Point #1 was handled easily enough by putting me in charge of the placement and anchoring process, since it was an interface cosmetically similar to other portions of the game I was quite familiar with. Point #2 was bad: it effectively tripled the amount of time we'd estimated it was going to take us to get from zero to "fully armed and operational battle station".

This was going to require the special java.

Still, we persevered. Weapons and shield hardeners slowly started humming to life, followed by warp scramblers and a pile of ECM modules guaranteed to ruin pretty much anyone's day. We had poured somewhere between 1.5 and 2 billion isk into this undertaking; we definitely wanted to protect our investment, and we didn't want anything going wrong.

So, when CB said (somewhere about halfway through our defenses coming online) "Does anyone ELSE see the Minmatar tower on D-scan?" You can bet I was not happy.

(More soon...)

Life in a Wormhole: The Adventure Begins... with shopping.

A flurry of communications followed my initial email about the empty wormhole. Questions. Queries. Calculations.

A whoooole lot of calculations.

The response surprised me a little bit, because we hadn't talked about moving into a wormhole system for quite some time and had, until VERY recently (read: the day before) been making plans to join the rest of our alliance in the nullsec Catch region.

My first visit to the Catch system in question had left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, however, so when I heard about this other opportunity, I thought I'd at least 'squat' in the system for a few days or weeks -- something I was personally well-equipped to do, thanks to already living a pretty nomadic lifestyle. One of my alts follows my main character around in an Orca-class industrial command ship (originally designed to lead mining operations) that I've repurposed to function as a mobile, stealth-capable space station, stocked with all the ships I was most likely to need and the ability repair and refit everything on the fly.  With a setup like that I figured it would be pretty simple to hop through the wormhole the next time it connected to a convenient system and basically live out of a suitcase until I got tired of it, got blown up, or the hold of the Orca filled up with too much loot to carry.

What my 'mates were talking about, however, was a full-blown move: setting up a stationary tower with formidable defenses, storage, manufacturing facilities, and a supply of ships sufficient to keep us operable without support for a very long while indeed.

In the end, that's what we decided to do -- largely because it was the coolest possible option available.

The next couple of days leading up to the weekend involved a lot of prep work. Gor (the corp's CEO and the most veteran EVE player by five years or so) unlimbered a few of his assets that he didn't often have much need to fly -- specifically, he pulled an Obelisk-class freighter out of drydock -- a ship so massive that it could haul virtually everything we needed or wanted to bring with us in one trip, with quite a lot of room to spare.  Gor and I dumped most of our liquid assets into the corp wallet, and it was time to go shopping.

Clearly, we were ready for anything.

(The only problem with the shopping was that once we got the essentials into the Obelisk, we felt compelled to fill up the REST of the space in the ship with 'nice to haves' that, in hindsight, we maybe didn't exactly need. Ahh well.)

Every day, I had Tira scan the system, make sure it was still unoccupied, locate the current wormhole connection to known space, and poke Smilin' Jack's head out to see where the system's connection was -- all of which gave us a pretty good idea of where we'd have to fly to reach the system and how long it would take.

The answer?

"Pretty far" and "a damn long time." The Obelisk is a hell of a hauler, but one thing it isn't is fast.  Conservatively, just getting to the wormhole entrance was going to take us well over an hour. Maybe two.

Little did we know that that would be the quickest and easiest part of the move.


"My name is John Crichton..."

I haven't been compelled to write about the sorts of things going on with my time in-game with EVE up to this point.

Yes, I've written about EVE as an MMO, because I find it interesting both how different and how VERY SIMILAR it is to other MMOs, but as far as writing posts on 'this is what I've done in the last week -- well, it's been a long time since I've felt compelled to do that in any game, let alone EVE -- the fact of the matter is, I'm basically running missions, making money, buying ships, and basically breaking even without a tremendous amount of risk involved. I'm having FUN -- let there be no doubt about that -- but none of it felt like something I wanted to record in any kind of journal.

That changed a week ago.

A week ago, someone on our Alliance channel said "Hey, I just found this completely uninhabited Class 2 wormhole system -- does anyone want access to it? It's got a persistant exit to high security Empire space, and another persistent exit to a random Class 1 wormhole system."

Now, I should explain. Wormhole systems are, from the point of view of the average EVE player, weird. There are no stargates connecting them to other systems. In fact, there are no empire-supported communication networks in the systems, no obvious means of either getting in or getting out... no structures associated with civilization (such as space stations) of any kind, and if you aren't skilled with survey probes, you'll never ever get in or out.  What exits you CAN find are unstable wormholes that last less than 24 hours, connecting randomly to other systems in the universe, only to be replaced tomorrow by a new wormhole, somewhere else in the system, connecting somewhere else in the universe.

And oh yeah, these lost wormhole systems are inhabited by sentient AI ships -- remnant watchdog ships that hate all human lifeforms.

They're like living in a solar-system-sized Tardis that you don't know how to drive, with Daleks wandering the hallways.

I kinda love em.

Perhaps it's because of the wild rules surrounding them, or perhaps it's because those ancient drone AI ships have components that sell for a LOT of money. Either way, one of the main reasons I learned how to use scanner probes and do exploration early on in the game was to find these wormholes and check them out.

But I'd never lived in one. Partly this was because when I found a good system to inhabit, I didn't yet have the means to do so, and partly because since then, I'd never found one that didn't have some corporation already set up inside; Wormhole living (based out of a player owned and operated (and constructed) tower)  is quite popular with a certain subset of Eve players who are a little more independent; who don't mind be fairly isolated from the rest of New Eden, and who are damned territorial.

So when this alliance member mentioned the unoccupied wormhole of a class that wasn't so horrible that I could probably live there, I shouted "Me me me!"

Since our first forays into wormholes, Gor and CB and I had talked about going back in and settling one semi-permanently, but the upshot of that planning was that we'd decided we needed a certain amount (read: a lot) of money and resources to make it work, and somewhat better training in certain areas.

But that discussion had taken place months ago, and I suspected we might be close to where we could make it work. I figured it couldn't hurt to at least get the location of the wormholes current entrance just in case.

So I contacted the alliance member, checked out the current wormhole's entrance location... and found out was nowhere near me; not "inconveniently" far; too far..

What it was, though, was really close to a character that Kate had made up to try out the game -- one that I knew had most of the skills necessary to survive in the wormhole as a stealthy forward scout -- someone who could play forward recon while we decided if this wormhole thing was going to work.

So, with Kate's permission, I got Tira over to the highsec empire entrance, sent her and her trusty cruiser "Smilin' Jack" into the wormhole, checked to make sure it really was as empty of other player habitation as my alliance-mate had claimed, and shot a message off to Gor and CB entitled
"I think this is what I'm going to be doing this weekend."

After that, things got a little crazy.

(More soon...)