2011-10-19

Life in a Wormhole: Welcome to the Alliance #eveonline

The war declaration I mentioned yesterday came on the last day of our month-long trial period with the Alliance, so while we were prepping for a bit of alone time in wormhole space, we were also going through the minor paperwork that comes with full membership; apparently, we managed to pass muster and got some pretty glowing reviews from the other corps in our wormhole.

As an added plus, Walrus and Cabbage offer to make our 'trial' arrangement permanent, so thankfully we don't have to relocate, either -- we're not 'guests' anymore; just the third 'home' corporation in our system. It feels good. We become full members within an hour of the wardec going active, which I personally find kind of amusing.

Not that the wardec has no effect at all -- it does hinder us a bit (at least it hinders me), simply because we're keeping our persistent connection to known space closed for the duration. This isn't a problem for the obvious reasons -- if we really needed supplies, all of our corporations have alt characters outside the alliance who can haul stuff in -- the 'problem' is that we're taking this opportunity to do some mining in the home system, hitting the three belts currently available in the system while the chance of outside interruption is low.

This increased security is due to the strange nature of wormholes in general. The way it works is that while any given wormhole system has one or two persistent connections available, they are only potential connections -- they show up on scan, but they don't "activate" until you actually warp a ship out close enough to them to show up on the same tactical overview grid as the wormhole.

Basically, what that means is that until you actually fly close to a wormhole, is has no 'other' side; it's not connected to anything until it needs to be (I smell some database programming efficiencies here). This affords a wormhole dweller a fair amount of security just by leaving their wormhole connections alone; since there's no 'other' side to the wormhole, no one can use your unvisited persistent connections to enter your system -- the only way to get unexpected visitors is if some other system's wormhole connection randomly selects your system as its destination point when it's activated. This is (a) not incredibly common (happens to us every week or so, maybe) and (b) pretty easy to watch for.

So, given all that, and the fact that we are already going to leave our LowSec exit closed, Mining Ops are set up, with the accompanying request to "keep all exits closed unless necessary", which means that our class two connection should be left alone as well, unless you know you have the ability and time to collapse it when you're done.

I don't want to endanger my fellow alliance mates while they shoot rocks, and Berke's not around much this week, so I'm left with few options for the next couple days, twiddling my thumbs while I pondering the fact that I didn't remember to bring a mining ship into the home system.

I'm not the only one mildly displeased by the current situations, though; surprisingly, it's the pilots in the system doing the mining who are looking askance at the whole set up, and the reason is that demon of wormhole mining: refining loss.

Miners in known space don't generally have to deal with this kind of problem; when they mine, they haul the raw ore back to a station and, assuming that their skills are good and their standing with the faction that controls the station is good, they will realize close to 100% return on the refining process. In short, if they mine X amount ore that should, on paper, yield Y amount of minerals, then Y amount is pretty much exactly what they're going to get.

Wormholes don't work that way. There are no stations, and the best refining facility you can set up at your tower yields only a 75% return on the refinement process, which (if you're selling the minerals for profit) is a pretty major cut into your profits and (if you're building stuff) is a pretty damned inefficient way to get the materials you need for manufacture. On top of that, any kind of effort to haul the raw ore out into known space where the refining percentages are better is hampered by the fact that the ore itself is extremely bulky and basically a huge pain in the ass to move out of the wormhole in any useful amount.

And mining is already kind of iffy in terms of profit in the first place: even in high security known space, a pilot with the standing and ability to run level 4 missions will make far more ISK running missions than they will with maxed-out mining skills, unless they're running something like four mining accounts at the same time. Even with the the existence of the rarer, more valuable ores inside wormholes, shooting sleepers is still almost always an exponentially faster and more effective way to make some ISK, even assuming perfect refining, and without that, mining becomes a very, very, very last-resort activity, even for pilots with a long list of perfect industrial skills.

Even carebear wormhole dwellers balk at 'mining op' fleet invitations.


Which is why my fellow pilots are spending their time in solitary talking about a Rorqual.

A what?
A rorqual-class capitol industrial ship is a kind of big-(big-big-)brother to the Orca. It is capable of performing a number of functions (mobile ship hangar and clone bay being of particular interest in known space), but the most valuable function to a group of wormhole miners lies in its ability to compress ore; it doesn't refine it into manufacture-grade minerals, but instead makes them far more portable in their raw state, which lets you accumulate what would otherwise be unmanageable amounts of ore and -- thanks to something like a 140:1 compression ratio -- smash them into a dense package that can be far more easily hauled to known space.

Obviously, this is a great solution to the problem.

There's just a few problems:


  • Cost: Between the blue-prints, required training books, and materials, the Rorqual costs several billion ISK to make, and to train up pilots who can us it in the way I've described.

  • Mass Limitations: All the minerals that Rorqual manufacture requires have to be acquired from somewhere -- either purchased and hauled in from known space (which goes back to the whole problem with hauling minerals through mass-limted wormholes), or mined and refined in the home system (which runs into the problem with 75% return from the refining array).

  • Training time: None of us can pilot a rorqual right now, and ideally at least one member from each of our corps should be able to, so we can all make use of it at any time -- that's a big commitment for a pilot to make, even if they'd be done before the ship is actually completed.

  • It's a ship in a bottle. We live in a class two system, which in turn means that any wormholes that leave or enter our system have a certain total mass restriction, and a certain per-jump mass restriction. In short, that means that we can't build or buy a Rorqual out in known space and bring it in, nor can we get such a ship out if we build it inside the hole; if we build it, we have to build it locally, knowing that it can never leave.



In short, it's a hell of a big project, and a hell of a big commitment to make. Given that our little corp only just joined the Alliance a few days ago, the fact that we're even discussing it says something about the great relationship we've already formed with our fellow system-mates.

It's all just talk for now, of course, likely driven by a bit of cabin fever and the fact that every hour spent mining is (thanks to the refining problem) at least 15 minutes worth of completely binned effort, but all the same I take it as a good sign for the future health of our home system.
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