2011-07-18

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...)
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