Life in a Wormhole: Too Long in the Wasteland #eveonline

[Good album, by the way. James McMurtry. I recommend it.]

Yeah, I know it's been a few weeks. Believe me when I say I'd rather be here -- I'm still in lesbian with you, EvE, even when you hurt me.

Just what have you been up to, mister?

November is always a crazy month around Random-Average, and this year was no exception. Matter of fact, it's possible I bit off a BIT more than I could chew. Dec-tupled normal work load, plus a good-sized contract job, plus editing work, plus Harper Collins stuff, plus baby, plus NaNoWriMo.

I realize now that I should have nixed one or more of those projects, and the most likely candidate rhymes with NaNoWriMo. Hindsight.

I'll tell you what I haven't been doing. Fucking Skyrim. My god, but internet people like to talk about that game. Never played any of the Elder Scrolls stuff, so it just didn't make my radar. Also have not played any table top stuff, or LotRO, or SWTOR beta, or whatever, so please don't imagine I'm messing around with anygame in lieu of EvE and depriving you of my hijinx.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

November has been a month in which our whole corporation has been taking advantage of Stuff Going On and getting some long-time-to-train skills done. Gor's flying force recon ships around now and cackling madly. CB has a couple Sabre-class interdictors in the hanger. Ty's almost done mastering Minmatar cruisers and will then (as I understand it) flip a coin to decide between Logistics or Strategic cruisers. Bre's doing something esoteric with Shields and finally mastered Gas Harvesting. Both Gor and Em have got their Rorqual skills up to par.

Me? I harvested a few gas clouds this month. That's about it.

December? December is looking a lot better.

One highlight I wanted to mention:

I popped in late one night to learn that Walrus and Cabbage Corp found a largely abandoned Class 2 wormhole and did some profound plundering. Walrus did quite well -- running over 20 sleeper sites for roughly 400 million in total profit -- but Cabbage and company really scored, in that they found a tower that had run out of fuel and lost its force field, allowing them to gather up a huge number of abandoned ships. Grand total haul for that day for everyone in the home system was well over 3 billion isk. Yowza.

What's coming up?

Things should be marginally back to normal in the next few weeks -- I've already been able to get into the home system a bit more. Here's some stuff I wanted to talk about.

  • Blowing off steam with Red versus Blue.

  • The allure of agency.

  • The new Crucible expansion.

Actually, I'll talk about that last thing a little bit right now.

CCP released its winter expansion today. The best way I can explain it is this:

Imagine an MMO expansion with over three dozen paragraph-length bullet points worth of changes.

Now, imagine that every single one of those items was, in effect, what players and developers in the industry would call "Quality of Life" improvements, and that they were all (or 99% of them were) changes welcomed by 99% of the player base, some of them so fundamental as to change the way the game will be played.

That's what's going on in EvE right now. Is there a lot of new content? No. Not exactly.

You don't technically get 'new content' when someone completely guts and renovates your kitchen, either. Doesn't mean that the renovation won't make you really, really happy.

It's a very cool time to be involved in the game.

More soon. I'm not going anywhere.


Life in a Wormhole: A Flurry of Activity #eveonline

Things are heating up for the madness of the coming month, and I'm not able to get on until late the next evening, after everyone is already gone for the night.

Everyone, that is, except Bre, who is admiring her new Anathema covert-ops frigate and scanning the system almost as an afterthought.

The scanning pays off, as Bre is able to pin down a rare magnometric signature indicating piles of sleeper goodies waiting for trick-or-treaters dressed up as space ships. It takes a bit of coaxing, but I'm even able to convince Bre to leave her Anathema behind and ship up into something a little more durable and pointy, and we make short work of the site. Once that's done, I switch to a salvager refit with a analyzer used to crack open the discarded sleeper containers floating around the site, and in about the same time it took us to destroy its defenders, the site had delivered a cool 50 million isk profit. Not bad for 20 minutes.

Loot is distributed in the normal manner.

Unfortunately, that's an end to the evening for both of us, and I won't be on for a few days due to a decidedly unfriendly work schedule.

My estimation isn't wrong, and it's several days before I can make it back online, finally reconnecting in the middle of the afternoon as Em, Ichi, Shan, and Liss muster up for an Alliance-wide operation in another wormhole.

Yes, we are functioning under a wardec, but after seeing some information about this particular target, we decide that taking part in taking this tower a-part is a moral imperative; it's just THAT bad.

Protip: When you are bringing your tower defenses online, you might find it more effective to anchor the shield resistance arrays INSIDE the tower's force field. I don't want to tell you your business, but... you know. Just think about it.


I've logged in to join my Walrus brethren and sistren for the op, which requires 20+ jumps through known space. Em and Ichi and I are making the trip in stealth bombers, which provide quite a bit of natural defense against getting jumped by war targets as we travel, but Shan and Liss are bringing a battlecruiser and command ship, respectively, so we enlist the aid of one of the operations scouts to assure a safe route from point A to point B, and although his voice comms are incredibly quiet, he knows what he's about and we arrive in the target system without incident.

What can I say about a tower bash that hasn't been said before?

How about this: If you don't already fly Amarr ships, it might be worth your time to crosstrain a bit -- at least for laser turrets, so you don't have to reload all the damn time.

Barring that? Bring a lot of ammo. More than that. Yes, more than that too. Just... bring all of it.

Yes. All of it.

Anyway, after a few hours of hurling torpedoes at The Tower of Incredibad Decision-Making, everything goes boom, dozens of incredibly poorly and/or stupidly fit ships are collected for resale, and our mini-fleet reforms to return home.

This time, Em has a scouting alt handy to make sure the path is clear, and I take over as the-guy-who-makes-sure-everyone-jumps-and-warps as a group, a role in which I perform adequately for almost... 85% of the trip.

Still, despite the VERY OCCASIONAL leaving behind of my fleet-mates when I forget to initiate a group warp, we coast home with nary a war target on scan, and tuck back into the home system. It was good practice for moving the fleet as a group (prep for the roams Em and I have been planning) and secure in the knowledge that today, we did our part in the constant battle to raise the collective IQ of wormhole dwellers everywhere.

Ha ha! That tower set up is so sil-- OMGWTF!?!


Life in a Wormhole: Run for the Rorq #eveonline

The one corp in our home system that wasn't around for the previous evening's supply run consisted of our Oceanic compadres, and I want to make sure they have the support they need before we lock up the system, so I drop in early in the morning (one of the upsides of a nine-month-old copilot) to see what's what.

It turns out Cabbage and Pan Demic are fine on tower fuel, but Pan is still planning a run out in an Orca, due to a slight miscalculation on the ore required for the Rorqual project. We're ready to begin building parts of the ship, but as it stands right now we won't have enough material to keep the forges running for the week we're going known-space cold turkey. I might not be able to do too much to help, but luckily Berke is around as well, so our corp can still lend a hand.

We scan down the exit to lowsec to see if we'll get lucky with a useful connection and the answer is "yes.. and no." The system itself is quite useful: immediately adjacent to the minor market in the Hek system means we only need to go a single jump with the Orcas to get the minerals we need (and the prices are even good). Unfortunately, the local comms channels (unavailable in wormhole space) tells us that there are two pilots in system who are members of the alliance with whom we will very shortly be at war.

We consider collapsing the hole to find a more secure connection, but as we debate it, Ty (who's scouting the lowsec system) reports that the two pilots have jumped out of the system. A bit more research shows that the gates we need to use are currently clear of any pilots, so we decide to make a break for it; Thunder-orcas are GO.

Our orca pilots are skilled in the stealthy arts.

Pan heads out first to purchase all the necessary materials, followed a few minutes later by Berke, who has a very small shopping list of his own.

It takes more than a few minutes to deal with the logistics, but eventually both the ships are ready to return to the system, and we get scouting eyes on the gate again. Both ships jump, but there was a miscommunication: Pan went to the gate back home, while Berke jumped to the next system over to pick up the last thing on his personal list.

We don't wait; the gate is clear for Pan to get home, so we get him moving and back into the home system without incident, however just as he warps away from the gate, he sees a Tengu-class strategic cruiser decloak and an Armageddon-class battleship land nearby. Things look a bit interesting for Berke's return.

Berke, for his part, is ready to make the attempt as soon as the gate gets a bit less congested -- he's fit with warp-core stabilizers (as usual), so it's highly unlikely a single battleship will be able to tackle him, and it doesn't look like the Tengu is on the Armageddon's side, since it warps away as soon as the bigger ship heads its direction.

Right. Berke warps to the gate and prepares to jump.

Meanwhile, Pan has unloaded his own orca and jumped back to the wormhole to jump through it and back again, to ensure that it's close to collapse when Berke returns -- he's thinking positive, but he has good reason, since one of his corp mates has jumped into a Hurricane-class battlecruiser and is en route to the gate to meet Berke coming the other way.

The Hurricane lands, the Armageddon turns and starts blowing away his shields, and Berke jumps through. With the Hurricane already in his sites and the Orca coming through the gate over 35 kilometers away, the attacking pilot doesn't bother switching targets, and Berke is easily able to warp away from the fight -- as soon as he does, his bodyguard/decoy jumps through the gate and into high-sec space. Easy peasy.

A few minutes later, the Hurricane is ready to jump back, and the Armageddon is nowhere to be seen. Curious. Also curious is the return of both of the pilots from the corp we're about to be at war with. Ty does a bit of poking around the system to see if he can figure out where everyone's at.

"You're clear to jump back home," he informs the hurricane pilot.

"You sure?"

"Very sure," comes the reply. "The Armageddon is dead."

"No kidding? Who killed it?"

Ty peers through the canopy of his cloaked covert ops ship. "Looks like those two pilots we've been watching out for," he says. "And they're currently looting the wreck a few klicks off one of the other stargates, so they're distracted. Come on through."

The hurricane jumps through the gate, warps to the wormhole, and jumps through. Ty follows, and Berke drops an Orca-shaped hammer on the over-stressed wormhole to bring it crashing down.

"Nice work," comments Pan. "Now then: time to build a Rorqual."


Life in a Wormhole: War Dec...oration #eveonline

I mentioned the new wardec in the last post, but I was getting a bit ahead of myself, since we get the tower set up and actually get a day or two to enjoy the new configuration (including a lovely couple evenings shooting sleepers with Liss, Em, and Ichi from the Walrus crew) before we get word that a notorious grief-infliction corp has declared war.

I am nonplussed by news of the wardec.

The notice goes out almost at exactly the same time as we discover a random outbound wormhole exiting our system. The coincidence could not possibly be more fortuitous, as it is not only an exit to highsec, but lies a mere four jumps from the Dodoxie market hub and a few more jumps from our corporate hangars. It seems we all know what to do (thanks to doing this dance only a few weeks ago), and Bre, Gor, Wil, Ty, Decker, Em, and Shan hop into haulers and head out to known space for various supplies. Berke even abandons his precious Orca to preserve the stability of our lucky wormhole connection, hopping into a Bustard deep space transport ship for maximum non-orca hauling.

Thanks to all the haulers present (our corp alone shows up in dodixie with six ships), we're able to get all the fuel we need with plenty of room to spare, and take a look at some other things we've been meaning to do, such as pick up another half-dozen guns and electronic counter measures for the tower, then pack them into a hauler and send them home.

Also, I've been looking askance at a couple Prophecy-class battlecruisers that have been gathering dust in one of our hangars, and I suggest a refit to Gor that would turn the ships from inadequate Sleeper-killers to tough little "bait and tackle" ships for PvP engagements. He gives a thumbs up, and we fill one ship with all the fittings necessary and send it back as well.

Having delivered the fuel, Gor's decided to swing by our corporate offices in known space, and I ask him about any Harbinger-class battlecruisers we have in storage, since they can be used more effectively on sleepers than the Prophecies, and two of our new members are focusing on ships of the Amarr nation. We have one in the hangar, and as luck would have it it's already pretty much set up how we want for new-guy Sleeper killing. I buy a second hull and all the fitting necessary and pack that into another hauler to unpack and assemble at the tower. Our new pilots can't quite ready to pilot them yet, but once they are the shield-tanked Amarr ships will be waiting and ready for Sleeper melting, and the Prophecies will give them something to fly when things go pear-shaped. Excellent.

The only problem is, since our new members aren't quite ready to come into the wormhole (Scanning skills. Get 'em.), the wardec puts them at considerable risk, so for their safety, we decide to remove them from the corp roster until they either join us in the home system or the wardec ends.

Or at least that's the plan. Turns out our new folks are having none of it -- Moondog logs in later and says he'd rather stand with us, even with the added risk, so we leave him where he is -- an old friend, we trust him to be alert to danger (or learn from mistakes).

Can't wait to get these guys in with us; really can't.

So: fuel loaded; ships delivered, unpacked, fit or refit (including Bre's shiny new Anathema, leaving her only one more race's covert ops ship to collect); defenses strengthened; and wormhole collapsed. That's our evening complete, and the job's a good'un. With the rorqual paid for and only one site to mine at the moment, we don't even have to worry about a week of uneventful cabin fever -- let the poor griefers in highsec twiddle their thumbs waiting for us -- we've got better things to do.


Life in a Wormhole: Tower Tweaks #eveonline

Taken all together, "wormholes" (and everything that comprises wormhole activity) are probably the best-designed things ever released for EvE. No other content addition to the game is so complete, so well-considered, so deep in its gameplay. Proof of that can be found in the simple fact that two years after their introduction into the game, they are (if anything) more popular than ever, well-populated with pilots who collectively have very few axes to grind in terms of wormhole stuff that needs to be fixed, added, or killed with fire.

If there is one major exception to this, it is Player-owned Structures, or POS Towers.

The Minmatar Control Tower, equally painful when inserted rectally or when setting security permissions.

Now, to be fair to Wormholes, Player-owned Structures are not actually part of that expansion -- they're really part of (and were, I believe, introduced with) the Sovereignty System that sees a lot of use out in Nullsec known space and (unlike wormholes) is a system that engenders a lot of criticism and suggestions for change. Sovereignty is a non-issue in wormhole space, but these things are still necessary for long-term living in wormholes, simply because there aren't any other options -- there are no stations in the inky black of the Great Unknown, and we need someplace to put our stuff.

So, we have wonderful wormholes, into which we are forced to insert POS towers and tower modules like rusty, jagged suppositories.

The problems with the towers go hand in hand with the problems that surround corporate administration in general, actually -- security in an EvE corporation is very important to a lot of folks, and CCP has responded to this need by making the Corporate management screen labyrinthine, confusing, obtuse, poorly documented, redundant, AND contradictory. It's actually possible to give a member of your corporation access to the same object or area in your corporate hangars from at least two and frequently three different screens inside of corporate management, and contradictory settings can not only be set in each window, but at different times/places/lunar cycles, each of those sets of permissions will be true. It's frustrating for the pilots and maddening for the administrators.

Things get even more annoying when you're dealing with a tower, because in addition to setting up permissions for the seven specific sub-hangars within the collective corporate hangar (settings which, if I'm counting correctly, can (in our corporation) be set to contradictory values for each pilot in no less than twenty-one different screens), you also need to set up the permissions for each of the structures you have in orbit around the tower itself.

"Okay, your ships are all in the lower hangar."

"I can't get into the lower hangar. Says I don't have permission."

"Crap. Right. Okay, give me a second and I'll move them to the hangar you can see."

(Five minutes later.)

"Okay, check now. Can you see your ships?"



"I can't board any of them though -- it says I'm missing "withdraw" rights for that area."


And then you have the tower structures that, for no reason I am able to fathom, do NOT observe the corporate 'sub-hangar' structure at all (I'm looking at you, Ship Maintenance Array), and are thus less secure. These are, of course, where you have to put all the really expensive stuff (ships).

Up to this point in our glorious corporate history, this hasn't really be a huge problem because our main pilots are either the CEO or (to keep things simple in terms of permissions) made Directors in the corporation because (a) we trust each other and (b) we're very lazy people. Voila: everyone can get to everything. Fixed.

Except that we'll soon have some new pilots coming into both the corp and the wormhole, and while we trust them not to do anything nefarious, we don't trust that they'll know to do (or not do) something that might have very negative affects on the tower itself. That would be bad.

So, to protect ourselves and the pilots, we've settled on a new structure for the tower in which all the new pilots have both a storage hangar and ship hangar for all their stuff, and the officers have a separate ship and storage hangar just for our stuff and things like tower fuel and other critical materials. Setting it up requires setting up security permissions for each of the structures within the tower forcefield, then setting up individual pilot permissions for each pilot, in each folder, so that everyone can (in essence) get into their footlocker as well as have access to group resources that we provide for everyone's shared use (ammo, replacement drones, scanning probes, various types of armaments and armor/shield fittings, et cetera).

It has taken us approximately two days to get it all set up, but (with the help of a very patient Tira, who plays guinea pig through many tedious sessions of "Okay, can you get into that folder now? no? try now? Yes? Okay try now. Okay, let's go to the next one...") it is done.

A few hours after we get it all just right, I get a message in my Alliance folder, informing me that we have been wardecced by another highsec griefer alliance.

All of these new pilots are still in known space. Only one of them (out of town) has the skills to move into wormhole space, and the rest simply do not. If we leave them in the corp for this wardec, they will become targets for everyone in that other alliance looking for an easy kill.

The best option, given our limited timeframe, is to remove the new pilots from our corporation until the wardec expires.

And before we can do that, we have to undo every single permission, in every window, for each of those pilots.


Life in a Wormhole: Moa Constrictors #eveonline

Once Em and I are back on line, she grabs her Onyx heavy interdictor and breaks several laws of physics to finish collapsing the connection between our wormhole and the one with the extremely enthusiastic defenders.

Once that's done, I rescan and jump through our new connection to find a system that is heavily overgrown with sleepers, despite what looks like some level of habitation by other pilots. Could be the pilots are simply slovenly home owners; they appear to be asleep right now, and are lazy enough to leave an Orca command ship, Covetor mining barge, and two Badger-class industrial haulers floating free inside their shields rather than docking them properly. My six-year old cleans up her room better than this.

Far more important is the fact that not all the ships I can see on d-scan are present in the tower. Still unaccounted for are two Moa-class cruisers and a Vagabond-class heavy assault cruiser. I swing my d-scan to-and-fro, verifying that the ships aren't in any of the sleeper anomalies, and in fact seem to be clustered somewhere in the midst of empty space. This might indicate that they're running some kind of magnometric or radar-signature site, but it seems unlikely with the Moas present; odds are that the tough little Moa cruisers are fit for gas harvesting, and the Vagabond is on site to clean up the few sleepers that inevitably show up during such operations.

My guess seems to be a good one, as a few minutes later I see a flurry of sleeper wrecks appear, then vanish. A few seconds later the Vagabond is gone.

But he is not back the tower. Curiouser and curiouser. Seems both the Vagabond and moa pilots are, like me, from some other system.

That means they don't have any backup.

With this thought in mind, I warp to the far end of the system, out of d-scan range of the active ships, and drop a handful of combat probes capable of locating ships as well as cosmic anomalies. I move them far outside the system for a blanket scan, then return to planetary orbit as close to the Moas as I can get without an actual location. Some more d-scan work puts them roughly 2 AU away, "below" me at about a thirty-five degree angle. I center my probes on that location, put them in motion, and scan.


Dammit. I set the probe scan radius far too small and missed the ships' location entirely. I quickly expand their sensor radius, rescan, recenter, and scan again to get a lock on their gas cloud, if not their actual ships (which are proving suspiciously difficult to lock down). Once that's done, I recall the probes and warp into the site at a distance, to get the lay of the land and look for a good angle for an ambush, but it's all for naught. My clumsy scanning mistake left the probes visible for far too long, and the wary pilots did what wary pilots armed only with gas harvesters do: run. Only the second of the two ships is still on-site when I arrive, and he flashes away as I watch.

Nothing wrong with a little caution.

Still, the moas are gone, like the Vagabond, leaving us a system ready for harvesting -- seems a shame to ignore the silver lining in favor of the gray cloud of my bumbled scanning.

Since my probes are already out, I continue normal scanning, revealing many gas clouds, plus a convenient high-sec exit near the Rens market. I put up a flare and we assemble the troops for money-making activities.

Em, Lar, Ichi, and CB jump into ships appropriate for sleeper shooting, Bre parks her Buzzard-class covops scout on the wormhole leading back to the home of the Vagabond and Moa pilots and puts out some scanner probes to keep an eye on the rest of the system, and I grab a Catalyst-class destroyer fit out for salvaging and stealth, and give the combatant pilots plenty of lead-time before jumping into the now-despawned sites to pick apart the wrecks and dig through old Sleeper sofas looking for loose change (and ridiculously valuable 'melted nanoribbons').

I maintain my composure as the loot accumulates.

Once all the available anomalies are cleared, the combat pilots switch to gas harvesting ships to pick up where the Moa pilots left off, and I skitter off to Rens to sell the loot and distribute the wealth -- 180 million ISK for 90 minutes work (not counting the profit from gas harvesting) looks like a solid return to normal operations.