Life in a Wormhole: Agency #eveonline

Strange kind of a day.

There's a bit of a snafu when we get online, simply because a few of the things Gor expected to pick up in market simply aren't available yet. Still, he picks up a couple of blueprints for battlecruisers (both new and old), and brings them back home where we can start to put them to use.

Best part of running errands now? The new warp effects.

First, we need to set up a research lab to start optimizing the blueprint designs, which I'm able to do with only a few quite minor tweaks to the tower's power grid.

The few seconds that it now takes to anchor and online a tower module? So lovely. Dear CCP: Nice job, but I'd like four days of my life back -- the time I spent putting up and taking down towers in the past.

Once the blueprints are cooking, we do a bit more maintenance around the --

-- oh, who am I kidding? We spend at least an hour swapping in and out of all the ships that got new skins with the patch. So... pretty.

Once that critical work is complete, Gor logs and I have some time to admire our handiwork and take stock of the changes to our home system.

I've always been pretty happy with our tower set up, but the longer we work on the home system, the more I feel like we're making true, full use of all the resources at our disposal. At first, most of what we did was shooting sleepers and selling their stuff. It had its challenges (especially while we got used to the raised difficulty, as compared to Known Space), but eventually we got the hang of it. Since then, we've built a rorqual, which lets us take much better advantage of the mining opportunities in wormhole space (assuming we EVER SEE ANOTHER MINING SITE), and with the new labs in place (and ship, ammunition, and drone factories ready to go online), we're moving into some stuff we rarely took advantage of even out in known space. Exciting stuff.

Okay, perhaps not to everyone, but it's exciting to us -- it's neat to be able to envision something in our home system and then make it happen -- and it's nice that wormholes really throw a little bit of everything at you and let you make use of all aspects of a character. It really is a collection of all the good stuff EvE has to offer with very little of the stupid cruft. (I'm looking at you, Sovereignty Mechanics.)

While I explore warp randomly around the system to look at the pretty warp effects, I notice one of the other changes that came out with the patch, in the form of destructible Interbus-owned structures that now orbit around all nullsec planets (let's not ask how Interbus got ships into every corner of wormhole space). Em has already mentioned that the tax rates being levied by these structures are pretty painful to anyone who does major Planetary Interaction, and he's out in known space right now picking up the supplies we will need to put up our own orbital stations... once we blow up the NPC ones (which is about to become a priority project for the next few days). It's nearly a billion ISK investment, but it'll easily pay for itself.

It's just one more way in which we're making the system more our own -- more 'how we want it to be'.

I do a bit of scanning while my fellow system-mates take care of business. CB is heading out into known space to set up a couple jump clones (he's got proper shiny implants in his head now, and doesn't want to lose them on a random weekend roam), and Em is on the way back with parts for our new planetary offices and fuel block blueprints that we'll soon need for the tower -- once he gets them back in, Bre goes to work researching and optimizing, then heads out to our known space home base to pick up a container of blue prints she's been hoarding for months, muttering something about 'pretty shiny lab facilities'.

There's just a lot going on, and looking at it all is really interesting.

Both we and the Walrus guys have put up labs to start work on blueprints and production. Em and I are planning group activities in the form of blowing up those customs offices, and more than a few people are murmuring about a growing desire to shoot stuff, which I wholeheartedly support.

Then we've got Bre and CB out on their own projects, not to mention Gor starting up ship manufacturing again... and that's ignoring the fact that I'm using my time to do some more exploration -- never know when we'll find another abandoned wormhole that someone wants to buy, after all.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine (Lee) who plays a lot of MMOs. He tried EvE not long ago and didn't much care for it, and like another of my friends, wanted to understand the draw for me.

The best way I can describe it (thanks to a suggestion from another friend, who was talking about his daughter's love of Minecraft) is "agency".

People like to toss around terms for different kinds of MMOs -- labels like "sandbox" and "theme parks" -- and I suppose that's fine; I've done the same in the past, in non-judgmental ways. I enjoy both types quite a lot.

But that term. Agency.

Agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.

I love spending time on Lord of the Rings Online. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy Star Wars the Old Republic.

But at the same time I know, going in, that I won't be able to affect those games very much. One of the things I love about Bioware games is the way your relationships with important NPCs are different, depending on the choices you've made with them -- it's powerful, it's interesting, and honestly it's really the only way in which your experience in the game is going to be much different from anyone else's experience in a game like Mass Effect (or, to be honest, SWTOR).

I can certainly affect the other people I play with (that's rather the point), but otherwise? No. I can't log into LotRO and set out to permanently reclaim Moria -- to make it what it once was, or something better. That's simply not an option, nor will it ever be an option. That's fine, though -- that's not the kind of game it's trying to be, and I already enjoy the game that it is.

Conversely, that sort of thing is exactly what EvE is about (and, to retain equilibrium, EvE is really rather terrible at the sorts of things LotRO is good at :)). That ability to make choices and impose (or at least try to impose) those choices on the world is what makes the game compelling to me; what makes it great, for a certain value of great.

Like most other things in EvE, wormholes are a pure distillation of that Good Thing. We have found our way into Moria through one of the many lost entrances, cleared one of the lesser halls, and set about rummaging through the old texts, dusting off lost relics, and killing any goblins (or other explorers) that get in our way. Hell, now we're mining (hopefully not too greedily or deep), and with any luck some wondrous items of our own will start flowing out into the rest of the world.

Someday, it may all come crashing down, thanks to a more powerful group of explorers, or some cataclysmic event, or simple neglect, but for now, it's ours -- we made it -- laid every stone and hammered every rivet, and there's nothing else I've experienced in an online game that's quite like it.

It's Not Easy

The thing with EvE (and again, via that distillation, Wormholes) is nothing much happens if you don't make it happen. If you don't scan, you won't have stuff to do. Nothing to mine. Nothing (or no one) to shoot. Hell, you can't even leave.

There's no agent ready to give you a mission with clear objectives. There's no amusement park with a map to all the rides where you can just sit and enjoy the spectacle.

There's sand. And some shovels. And some buckets. And some other kids. (Maybe, and what if there's not?) That's kind of it. You can make a castle, or you can sit on your ass and get a nasty sunburn. You can make ships or run out for blueprints or prep for carnage or mine or whatever you want... or spin the camera around you ship, renew your training queue, and bitch how there's never anything going on.

That's Agency: the fun is up to you.


Life in a Wormhole: Preparing for Change #eveonline

There's a lot of interesting stuff happening in EvE, and in anticipation of some of the changes, most of he wormhole pilots have set out into known space to pick up supplies or to station themselves in systems where new blueprints will be made available the following day.

I, an industrialist in name only, focus on moving tower fuel back to the home system, while Gor brings back in new tower modules he plans to make use of. While Gor and CB and Bre all enjoy some production fun, we haven't really done any of that while in Anoikis, simply because it wasn't terribly feasible without dealing with serious loss of materials in the refining process. The new Rorqual is making that concern a thing of the past, however, and aside from the new fuel blocks that we can now manufacture in our tower, Gor's keen to research some blueprints and crank out a few of the shiny new battlecruisers being released. Since I want one (if not two) of those same battlecruisers, I'm not likely to complain.

I swear, as we log off for the night, it feels like the night before Christmas. Visions of Hurricanes dance in our heads.

What will Space Santa bring?


Life in a Wormhole: Blowing Up Properly #eveonline

The home system has been quiet this week (which is why I've been writing a few more guide-like things than normal), but one thing we did manage to accomplish was getting one of our old friends/new pilots into the system. In this case, it's Tai (not to be confused -- though he will be -- with Ty).

Tai has particularly impressed me during his early time in EvE, because he's asking really smart questions and (more importantly, to my mind) figuring out a lot of stuff on his own. He's one of those extremely rare birds for whom the EvE interface actually seems to be intuitive, which is roughly as likely as a pregnancy resulting in identical twins, both of whom emerge from the womb as capable FORTRAN programmers.

Also in his favor is the fact that he's chosen to stay focused on his 'race' of ships. Some of the Amarrian ships are a bit of a challenge to fit for wormholes, true, but since he's not doing foolish things like learning every type of turret and missile system (Ty) or getting perfect ratings in every race's frigate-class ships for every tech level (Bre), he's been able to get into wormhole-functional sleeper-killing ships (full tech-two tank, tech2 weaponry, the whole package) in what is, to me, a surprisingly short amount of time.

As an added bonus, he doesn't need to bring much with him for the move, since we have both pve- and pvp-focused Amarr battlecruisers waiting in the tower with his name on them (literally). Secure in that knowledge, he flat-packs all the parts for a Magnate-class scanning frigate in the hold of his Bestower-class hauler and flies to meet me for an escort through a few low-sec systems and into the hole. I give him a tour of the tower, show him where to dock his ships and stow the skillbooks he brought along, and we're all set.

Tai logs out, but I'm not done, as it's time to head out of the hole to known space again. Once again, I've made a list of stuff we need to pick up over the weekend, and once again, I'm going to step out a day early, switch to my cheap jump clone, and go on a roam with RvB to blow off some steam at the end of a stressful week.

The only difference this time is CB, who's decided to come along and get some practice with his Sabre-class interdictor, whose warp-disrupting probe launcher seems to be very welcome on these roams. For myself, I'm happy to stick with the Arbitrator from the previous week, set up with a couple tracking disruptors, lasers, and many flights of drones.

The previous week, the laser fleet took a bit of time to get rolling, and a bit more time to find any sort of serious fight, but the opposite is true this week. By the time we reach the mustering system, not only have over a hundred pilots assembled (including three or four logistics ships for support), but the nascent fleet's managed to kill a couple of capitol ships, in the form of two carriers who were (inexplicably) killing pirates in lowsec systems. Pity we missed out on that, but it turns out that quickly finding fights is going to be a theme for the night.

It just won't go in favor of RvB.

There's a good chance our entertainment will come to an abrupt end.

CB and I have to race to catch up with the fleet, and once we do it's only a few jumps before our forward scouts report a large fleet coming the other direction. It is, in fact, a fleet comparably sized to our own, all pilots from the well-known Northern Coalition.

They are, as I said, heading our way, so all we need to do is get to our best ranges off the gate and prepare, which for me means getting out well past thirty kilometers and for CB means getting right on top of the stargate and waiting for the blood to start spraying.

We don't have to wait long, and it isn't pretty.

The RvB gang had congratulated ourselves on having a small number of Basilisk-class logistics cruisers in the fleet, and it is only because of their efforts that we lasted as long as we did, but the NC. fleet had well over a dozen Guardian-class armor logistics cruisers of their own, and the power of their group's repair capabilities proved more than we could punch through. A single Zealot-class heavy assault cruiser was the only ship that dropped to our guns before the gang was routed, and it was long before that that several fancy NC ships targeted CB's interdictor (always a high-priority target in any engagement) and liberated his escape pod from the confines of the ship.

Both of us were able to escape the initial engagement with our clones intact, but it proved impossible to get back to anything resembling neutral space, since the enemy fleet broke up into at least a half-dozen smaller groups (20 ships per group) and stationed themselves on gates leading away from the system for several jumps in all directions. CB's pod was cracked trying to reach me and, with him waking up in a new medical clone back in Gallente space, I made a run for it and found that a non-travel-fit cruiser with 1600mm armor plating is an unlikely candidate for nimble blockade running.

Still, the cost was minimal, the experience was experiency, and I lost no implants, thanks to my throwaway clone. CB did, but he was planning to upgrade his implants (which require destroying the old implants in any case), so at least they got retired in a proper blaze of glory.

Our night ends quietly, with CB cashing in some goodwill with the Gallente military to get some new wires in his head (and checking on what he needs to do to get a proper jump clone, which he hasn't done), and me pricing fuel and tower supplies we need to bring back into the home system in the next few days.

It feels like things are getting back to normal and I, for one, couldn't be happier.


Life in a Wormhole: Clone Jumper #eveonline

Jay asks:

Hey man,
I am a little confused about all this cloning stuff, how and why would I want a lesser clone? how do I jump between the 2 or 3 or 4...?

Okay, so that's a really good question, but it's a little complicated.

Think of clones like cars.

Most of us have just one car. We spend a lot of time in our cars, and over time, we tend to customize and maybe even pimp them out a little bit. (In this case: Implants.)

If we wreck our car and total it out, we need to get a new one, and that new one is going to be "plain", it's not going to have all the custom stuff in it, until we pay to add in all that stuff too.

In EvE, as a capsuleer, this "plain new car" happens automatically. If your ship gets blown up, that's really no worse than losing a (really) expensive set of tires or getting an expensive fender bender, but if we get our pods destroyed, the body is destroyed, and with it all our little customizations (implants). But we're SPECIAL, so we get downloaded into a "medical clone" that remembers all the skills we've trained (if we remember to keep the clone updated to a point where it's smart enough to remember all our skills). However, that body obviously doesn't have all the cybernetics the old body did.

That's all a medical clone is -- the assurance that if we get our car totaled, we get a new one.

Jump clones are different. They're like someone who has more than one car, who selects whichever one they want for the day.

So here's the most basic example. Let's say you're a normal guy with one body (car), and you're planning on doing some risky stuff. Problem is, you have some implants in your head, and if you roll out into the Danger Zone and get podded, you'll lose that stuff. The main rule of EvE is 'don't fly what you can't afford to lose', and that includes the wires in your head.

So you have options.

  • Option One is 'don't do the risky thing'. Lots of people opt for that.

  • Option Two is "risk it, cuz I can't figure out how jump clones work." LOTS of people do that, whether they want to or not.

  • Option Three is 'get a different body to use for the risky stuff'.

So here's me: I've got well over 200 million isk worth of implants in my head. It's all +4 stat bumps and some modules that increase my abilities in ways important to me. Keep in mind: the value of the wires in this is example is MINISCULE compared to some folks. You can easily spend multi-billions on a complete implant "set", with inherent set bonuses. In any case, the fact that someone else has way more valuable stuff in their head isn't relevant; in this example, the implants in my head -- whatever they are -- are more than I'm willing to lose.

I'll keep this one safe, if you don't mind.

Anyway, pretend-me wants to go into wormholes, but because I'm new to wormholes and imagine the odds of getting podded are high, I don't want to risk these implants (and also there's some implants that boost scanning strength that I want to get, specifically for wormholes), so I train the skill that lets me have Jump Clones, then I either go to a station that has cloning facilities and is owned by a corp with which I have a really high standing, or one with which my CORP has really high standing, or a join a corp called Estel Arador for a day for the express purpose of making clones and then leaving again (that's just something Estel Arador does for pilots, for free, because they're awesome).

So now I have a second car/body. I go to a different station, unplug my fancy clone from my ship, jump over into this new body, and put in some implants that will be (a) more useful in wormholes and (b) less risky to lose, like maybe just +3 implants, which are about one-third the cost of the +4s -- and maybe not as many of them -- like, for instance, I'm not going to need a Social implant, cuz I'm not training Social skills in a wormhole (no agents to schmooze).

24 hours later, I can jump back into my high-end clone, which I do so that I'll train skills a bit faster than my wormhole clone, but when it's time to go to the wormhole, I'll jump into my cheaper, less risky wormohle body and head out, leaving the shinier clone in storage for now.

Ready for the wild frontier.

Maybe a few months later, I decide that I'm going to start going on short roams out into nullsec on the weekends, just for a few hours on a Saturday, just for fun and laughs.

Now this is MUCH more risky than plain old wormhole living. With the wormhole clone, I've put in implants that I feel I need for long-term play (I still want to train reasonably quickly), but which minimize my losses if something goes wrong. And in any case, I generally try to keep things from going so wrong that I get podded.

But with this new 'weekend roaming' situation, I'm actually looking for trouble and EXPECTING to blow up. Repeatedly.

So I head back into a station and make a third jump clone: my throwaway clone. This body gets no implants at all. I just jump into this car when I'm going to go off-roading up in the mountains. Thing doesn't even have any doors on, and half the paint is just primer, cuz why bother?

Get right down to it, and this is all the car a Minmatar pilot really needs.

I jump into this body when I'm headed for serious hijinx, and if I survive, great, and if I get podded, I'll just reboot back in my medical clone (which is always what happens when you get podded, regardless of which jump clone you're in), and since I have now used my medical clone backup, I'll pay to upgrade the memory on my new medical clone, cuz you really always have to remember to do that after a podding.

24 hours later, I jump back into one of my 'nice' bodies, resume normal activities, and the body I just left behind becomes my new 'junker car' for weekend shenanigans.

Note: In most situations, all these clone jumps take place at stations. It's possible to do them in known space, outside a station, IF you have access to specific kinds of command ships (like the Rorqual) with clone bays fitted, but please note: even if you have access to those ships, you can't clone jump into or out of wormhole space.

What happens if I get podded while in one of my 'good' clones? Well, then I have two stripped-down clones, and either don't have the pimped-out or semi-pimped out version anymore. That one will need to be replaced, by buying implants for one of the naked clones. Super fun.

Got it?


Life in a Wormhole: How Soon Can I Start? #eveonline

In the past, I've written a fair bit about what you need to bring when you decide to move into a wormhole. That list is intended for an entire group heading into a class two or something similar, however, so as we've had some old friends/new pilots coming to join us I've had to revise that list pretty extensively, focusing on skills, mostly, since we're happy to provide a few appropriate ships until the pilots in question start making money.

As far as skills went, one of the two points on the skill list about which I was quite adamant, was this:
You should have all the skills and support skills necessary to fly an appropriate PvE ship without getting blown up in a Sleeper site. In a C2, that means a battlecruiser, using an all tech2 tank (very likely shield-tanked) and able to withstand AT LEAST 350dps of Omni damage (preferably 420), while still able to put out about 200 dps, minimum.

For even a new pilot, this means that if there is a skill – any skill at all – that affects your effectiveness in your chosen ship, those skills should be at least a 3, and many if not most should be 4 or 5. New pilots should then improve from there.

And I still think that's a good goal to have, for the very limited topic of 'pve sleeper combat'.

But I had a conversation today, and it got me thinking.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the killing power of wormholes.

My outlook is something like this.

And that's not wrong, but I was talking to this new pilot today, listening to him tell me how he has all these friends in his corp from his home town, and how they're in a wormhole, and how he wants to get in there with them and participate, but really can't until he can fly X with skill Y, because no one could survive in a wormhole without at least that much.

And I was like:

... because I just have to play Devil's Advocate, I guess.

I started to explain how he could get into a wormhole without elite combat skills, contribute in valuable and very appreciated ways, every day, and even make some iskies.

Here's What I Told Him

So let's say you're all gung-ho to get into a wormhole with your friends and (because they're your friends), they aren't saying stuff like "You must fly a TENGU! and Logistics Level 5! And perfect Scanning Skills! And did we mention ZOMG TENGU!?!" They're welcoming, is what I'm saying.

And you've seen all the cool (and, let's be honest, profitable) stuff there is to do in a wormhole, and you're like:

And (again, because they're your friends), they aren't saying "no", exactly. They are saying "maybe you should train a few more skills" or "you might end up being kind of bored if you can't join in on ops" or something like that.

What they want to say is:

'Noob. This is you, trying to get into a wormhole.'

And they may be right, if you aren't willing to explore some alternative ways to take part in the Exciting Activities. Let's look at these alternatives:


This one is huge. Maybe you can't shoot stuff that well yet, but you can be Scanning Guy. Everyone in the hole should be able to scan (and most should be able to scan well), but everyone gets tired of it from time to time (even me). Want to build a lot of good will? Volunteer to scan sometimes. Hell, most of the time -- you probably need the practice. Learn how to scout a hostile system without giving your presence away. Learn how to find good systems for looting. These are all things that will endear you to your corp mates, but just as importantly, you will be teaching yourself valuable skills.

Edit to add (at Tweed's suggestion): Some old videos I made on how to scan. It's from the system we're no longer in, so I don't really care about operational security, and the videos might help folks.

Sleeper Combat

If you can't fit a BC that can survive sleepers yet, know that there are other ways to contribute while you train:

  • Overwatch: put together a scanning frigate with combat probes and volunteer for scanning and overwatch duties while your fleet kills sleepers. It's a vital role, and encourages you to train critical skills related to wormhole survival (cloaking, the various Astrometric skills). The only problem with this is that your 'mates may not be entirely sanguine about the new guy's ability to spot potential dangers (and, to be fair, you may not be, either) -- if you're saying "Hey guys, what does it mean when I get a bunch of extra ships on scan?" or "What do you mean d-scan doesn't refresh automatically?" instead of "BREAK BREAK, SAFE UP", someone's probably going to die.  So if you (or they) want some time to learn the lay of the land before you play overwatch...

  • Salvaging: Train Salvaging to 5 and fit up a destroyer with:

    • a couple salvage rigs

    • 3 tech2 salvagers

    • 3 tractor beams

    • a cloak

    • a probe launcher (just in case)

    • and a MWD... and follow along behind your 'mates salvaging as they kill: they'll be happy to have someone with high salvaging skills maximizing their (and your) profits.Note: In both these cases, you should be getting a share of the loot for your contribution to the operation.


Now, I'm a terribad miner, but with a Vexor-class crusier, decent drone skills, and some miner IIs I can still pull as much ore out of a rock as a Retriever-class mining barge -- only problem is my hold fills up really fast, so I get RSI from moving it to a jettisoned canister. Still, don't let someone tell you you can't mine in a cruiser, even if an exhumer is obviously better in the long run. That's said: if they're flexing their Hulks and screaming "THIS. IS. VELDSPARTA!" there's still stuff you can do.

  • Overwatch: Hey, guess what? Miners still need a lookout, especially if your mining buddies like to cut the boredom with a little bourbon. Grab that  scanning frigate we talked about, drop a combat probe, cloak up, and start scanning. If they decide they don't need that, then...

  • Hauling: That's fine: unlimber your industrial hauling skill and cart the Mining Ferengi jetcans of ore back to the tower so they can keep mining and the Orca-class industrials can hide safely inside the force field. You get to watch the pretty warp effects a lot, and you stay moving and busy. No bad there. And, again, this stuff is all part of the operation, and you should get a fair cut of the profits. Everyone manages that differently, but fair's fair.

Gas Harvesting?

This is probably my favorite non-combat thing to do in a wormhole, simply because it's easy to max your skill out, and you can make perfectly viable gas harvesting ships out of cruiser hulls that damn near anyone can fly. In all seriousness, this is a great thing to train up, and one of the first things where you can be just as productive in a wormhole has the guy with 140 million skill points.

HOWEVER, if you just can't bear to spend any training time on this, there's still Overwatch and Hauling (see Mining, above).


PvP is not like Sleeper Combat. It's potentially more dangerous, but also less strict than a sleeper anomaly in terms of the minimum requirements for participation. A two-day-old character can string together enough basic skills to fly a frigate and fill the role of "Tackle" in a PvP fight. At the very least, you should be prepared to do that (and that means practicing the skills with your mates so you understand what you need to do when the hammer drops).

Planetary Interaction

Basically, this is setting up robotic colonies on a planet and relieving said planets of their natural resources for the purposes of fun, profit, and tower fuel. I'm not good at PI, but I do have good skills in PI, because they are easy and quick to train, and it lets me help fuel the tower.

Other people in the wormhole are able to do that and still make 300 million isk every couple weeks, which means you can too.  Don't look to me for "how", though -- like I said, I'm bad at PI.

What I'm Saying...

You could still be in the hole and doing stuff while you train those 15 days for a battlecruiser. Or a month for Tech2 guns. Or whatever. You can contribute, and more to the point, you don't have to wait to hang out with your friends.

My suggestion? Do it.

"But What if All I Want to Do is Pew Pew Sleepers?"

Hmm... in that case:
You should have all the skills and support skills necessary to fly an appropriate PvE ship without getting blown up in a Sleeper site. In a C2, that means a battlecruiser, using an all tech2 tank (very likely shield-tanked) and able to withstand AT LEAST 350dps of Omni damage (preferably 420), while still able to put out about 200 dps, minimum.

For even a new pilot, this means that if there is a skill – any skill at all – that affects your effectiveness in your chosen ship, those skills should be at least a 3, and many if not most should be 4 or 5. New pilots should then improve from there.

Seriously. If you want to fight stuff, skill up or STFU.


Note: Everyone cannot cut these corners. This little breakdown assumes that if you're coming into the system in what is essentially a non-combat role until you can get your skills caught up, someone (hopefully several someones) are shouldering the heavy burden of being the badass, both in terms of gunnery as well as all the unsexy skills that let Life in a Wormhole actually... you know... work.

If that's not the case, none of you are ready.

With All that Said
I've found that I do still feel strongly about this:
At a minimum, have Astrometics to level 4 and Astrometric Rangefinding, Astrometric Pinpointing and Astrometric Acquisition to level 3 each.

Yeah. This is still something you should always consider a requirement. Scanning is life in a wormhole. It's breathing. Don't be a leech on your corp mates.


Life in a Wormhole: Musing on the Crucible #eveonline

[This first two paragraphs are split off from yesterday's post, so bear with me for the repetition -- I soon veer off in another direction from the previous post.]

As I've already said, one of the most important elements for enjoying any MMO is having people to play with; this requirement is (in my opinion) an absolutely unavoidable consideration for long-term enjoyment. EvE is no exception.

What's different about EvE is that one of the ways players choose to play with others is by blowing them up, which (again, my opinion) makes EvE a lot more like 'normal' games (Chess, Monopoly, Clue, Cribbage, et cetera) than a typical MMO, because a lot of the fun you're having comes from pitting yourselves directly against other people.

In fact, if you can find other people to pit yourself against, that's really all you need; there's no 'raid gear' requirement or level-cap. Aside from being vastly outnumbered or outgunned, if you can find an opponent, the rest boils down to -- in the words of Fezzik -- "skill against skill alone."

[Fezzik demonstrates what it's like to fight a frigate while piloting a battleship. Fezzik needs a small drone bay.]

Consider: once a player-versus-player game is sufficiently honed, balanced, and functional, it doesn't require regular infusions of content to remain interesting and entertaining. Witness: Go. Diplomacy. Risk. By contrast, MMO's require constant content infusion; a fact which is changing the gaming industry as a whole (even those parts unrelated to MMOs) into a Ongoing Service industry.

In terms of 'content', this, rather than WoW, is the game EvE most seeks to emulate. If you don't believe me, compare a picture of a Go game in progress to EvE's Sovereignty Map.

Anyway, in EvE, we have a situation where conflict with (or the potential for conflict with) other players can be a powerful fulcrum that allows the creation of a lot of 'stuff to do' with very little effort (by the developers) once all the pieces are created and functioning properly; the content comes from the other people playing.

(Which not to say that EvE is functioning with the flawless balance of a Go board, though perhaps parts of it are. Witness wormholes, which were introduced in EvE 35 months ago (read: 90 years in internet time) and have since, in terms of code and content, remained virtually untouched by developers, yet continue to pull in more players every day through the powerful attractive force generated by providing self-sustaining and well-designed tools for personal agency. More on that agency in a later post.)

It's also the reason why the most recent Crucible expansion got EvE players so excited, even though (by a typical MMO's definition of the term) there was no (or very little) new content (read: new "stuff to do"). Almost the entire expansion consisted of Quality of Life improvements and bug fixes -- it was a honing of EvE's version of the Go board, and it thrilled the player base simply because it would let them play the game they already loved, better.

What do you get an avid Go player who already has a board and pieces?

A nicer board with higher quality pieces.

That's Crucible.


Life in a Wormhole: Roaming Around with Red versus Blue #eveonline

[[Note: This post is trying SO HARD to be three posts, rolled into one. I'm fighting it as well as I can.]]

My month of insane levels non-EvE activity continues. In my notes, I have multiple five-day-long stretches marked 'didn't play', but that's not an option right now, because the tower needs some fuel that can only be had out in the madness that comprises the market systems of New Eden, so into Known Space I must go!

It's coming up on the weekend, though, so I plan to squeeze what fun I can out of my limited play time by planning some Activities while out and about. Obviously, that doesn't mean mission-running (not a very efficient use of my time, and probably frustrating given that my old mission-running boats are underfit for my current skill set, not to mention covered in dust), but what's this? An 'anyone's invited' roam through nullsec space, organized by the pilots of Red versus Blue, scheduled to take place the same weekend I need to be out in known space anyway. Perfect.

A Bit of Background
I've said this before, but one of the most important elements for enjoying any MMO is having people to play with; said requirement is printed right on the tin, as they say, and despite the fact that EvE is the Mos Eisley of MMOs, this need for real-live-person interaction remains. (Maybe more so, since the purely solo-activity offerings in the game are a bit... dry.)

What's different about EvE is that one of the ways players choose to play with others is blow them up. In a way, this makes EvE a lot more like 'normal' games (like Chess, Monopoly, Clue, Cribbage, whatever) than a typical MMO, because a lot of the fun you're having comes from pitting yourselves directly against other people, while a typical MMO (City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings, WoW, whatever) puts a lot more development effort into cooperative play.

Anyway, in EvE, we have a situation where conflict with (or the potential for conflict with) other players is where a lot of your 'playing with others' action comes from, even if the only 'other people' you're playing with are trying to blow you up.

Which brings me back to Red versus Blue. From the EvE wiki:

Red versus Blue (or RvB) is a straight-forward institution. There are two high-sec corporations, the Red Federation and the Blue Republic, with a permanent war declaration between them. Any player may join either side as they wish and indulge in target-rich PvP, the focus of which is on inexpensive frigate and cruiser combat. It really is that simple: Apply to one of the corps, the application will be accepted, jump in a ship, start PvPing.

It's a genius idea, a great way to learn more about EvE PvP as a new player, as well as a fun way to relearn how to enjoy the game as a veteran pilot with a few too many Tower Bashes in your past. Everyone from Goonwaffe pilots to the cariest of carebear miners respects what RvB does.

That said, I'm obviously not going to give up my wormhole home just to shoot a some frigates, which is where the RvB "open roam" nights come in. For these events, RvB opens up participation to anyone: RvB members, ex-members, compatriots, complete strangers, whatever. Just get on the right channel, open up the right comms, get to the mustering point at the right time and in the right general type of ship, and off you go.

So that's what I decided to do with my weekend, since I don't have a lot of a lot of free time at the moment and the home system is pretty quiet (read: decimated by Skyrim).

The open roam theme: Lasers. Bring something (anything) with lasers. Even it if was stupid. Even Especially if it would blow up hilariously.

Friday: Exit the hole and make my way to a market system. Park my current ship, clone-jump to a cheaper body, and pick up an appropriate ship. I opt for the Amarrian Arbitrator-class cruiser, designed mostly for drone carnage and (thanks to a number of tracking disruptors for electronic warfare) causing chaos in the ranks of the enemy.

I expected it to explode beautifully.

Saturday: Log in a few minutes before the mustering time (Saturday afternoon), get to the system, fleet up, get into voice comms, and spend the next couple hours being thoroughly amused while listening to several increasingly-drunken citizens of Great Britain lead a fleet of seventy-five idiotically-fit laser boats around nullsec, looking for a fight.

Here's the result:

Inexplicably, I did not die.

... which actually worked out okay, since that means I can keep the ship around, stored in a market system with my inexpensive "I'm going to die and don't want to lose my implants" clone, and use it on the next roam. (Oh yeah, I'll be doing this again.)

Sunday: I jump back to my current, proper clone, pick up the next month's worth of fuel, and haul it back to the wormhole and the waiting arms of our hungry tower.

Total time played: About 5 hours for the entire week.

Enjoyment/time ratio: Damned good.

Which was, really, the point.


Life in a Wormhole: Home Security System #eveonline

We've got some old friends/new corpmates inbound for the home system soon. Exciting. Prompted by a couple discussions we've had, I've decided to put together how just logging can be different in the wormhole than the places in New Eden with which most pilots are familiar.

Space: Always cool. Rarely safe.

I have just logged in. What do I do first?

Okay, so here’s me, logging in for the first time that day, in our home system.

As always, I logged out outside our tower, at a safe spot, out at the edge of the system, preferably in a ship that can cloak, and ideally in a ship that can warp while cloaked.

  • Why outside the tower? Lots of stuff can happen while you're offline. If the thing that happens is Something Bad, it will likely be happening to our tower. If you're lucky, the tower is simply under attack. If you're unlucky, the tower has been put into Reinforced Mode and subsequently surrounded in a network of Warp Disruption bubbles that will prevent anyone outside the tower from warping in (as you will try to do when you log out inside the tower) or warping out.  This impromptu lattice of death has acquired the disappointing in-game nickname The Rape Cage, due to the carnage that usually results when a tower's occupants log on and helplessly warp right into the waiting arms of Death (the entrenched enemy fleet).

    Nathan and Max add: No effect can halt a log-in/log-out warp (when the game actually removes or replaces you, after aggression timers are over). This includes logging into a bubble around your POS; you'll end up inside your tower's force field as normal, but without the normal ability to escape. Since you'd probably rather be outside, scanning an exit to bring in reinforcements, it would have been better if you'd logged out while somewhere else, to begin with.

  • Why the edge of the system? If strangers in the system aren't there to kill your tower (which they often aren't) they're usually taking advantage of any sleeper anomalies you have in your system. Those anomalies tend to spawn within 4 AU of celestial bodies, and most celestial bodies are closer to the center of the system. Thus, most anomalies and enemy ships will be in the center of the system. If you've logged out on the edge of the system, you've increased your chances of loading the game and getting cloaked up before anyone sees you.

  • Why cloaky? Information is always the best weapon to have, and the best defense. If you can log in without anyone noticing you, good. If you can ensure that you will not be spotted after that point, that's better. By cloaking up, you're basically undetectable by any means in a wormhole. That means you can gather information on anyone in the system without them knowing anything about you.  Advantage: you.

First: check the  System Channel Message of the Day, (and the Corp and Alliance MotD if you feel that's relevant.) Any warnings? Any status stuff at all?

Second: Get the scanning window up, and the in-game browser open. The homepage of my browser is set to wormnav.com, and a second tab is open to the shared, secure, online page that we use to maintain intel on our home system. (What the IDs of any signatures are, any info on systems we're connected to, how long before a wormhole collapses of old age, et cetera.)

  • Tower D-scan: I have a safespot that keeps me on the edge of the system but within d-scan range of all our friendly towers. I jump there (cloaked) and d-scan. Any foreign ships? Any weirdness at all? Visible enemy ships within d-scan of our towers are probably causing problems, especially if there are a lot of them.

  • Wormnav: Check wormnav for recent ship kills, npc kills, et cetera. Check the shared secure webpage on the system for any notes about incoming/outgoing wormholes that might be open.  If you see ship and pod kills on wormnav, be on high alert. Go to the bottom of wormnav and open up the battleclinic link for more details.  On the other hand, if you see very little activity, then things are looking pretty good for you.

    Nathan reminds me: Until the Crucible expansion, wormnav (and any other program using EvE's API feed) also displayed the number of jumps in and out of a system, and some could compare the total against the number made just by alliance members. The API no longer shows Wormhole jump-info, which is why I didn't mention it, but it's worth mentioning its absence, because (like a /local channel and locator agent info) it's something folks expect and rely on in Known Space and won't find in Wormholes. I like that change, but it's one more way in which wormholes are more dangerous.

Assuming nothing is immediately worrisome, you can:

  1. Stick around and do something fun.

  2. Do your Planetary Interactions/Skill Queue/Research/Manufacturing/Eve Mail Updates, if that's all you were logged in for, and log out. Cheers.

If you Chose #1, You have More Stuff To Do

Bad stuff can happen at any moment.

Jump to a safe spot in the center of the system while cloaked (or jump to the safe spot and THEN cloak, if you must), and check out the center of the system.

D-scan again. Also: hit a Passive Scan. Most anomalies spawn in the center of our system, so if tourists are hitting our sites, they might be here and not visible from your starting point. Knowing where the anoms are makes it easier to find them.

Note: don’t log out in the center of the system, though -- better to be out of d-scan of as much of the system as possible while the game loads. However: if your home system is small enough that there's no place to be that isn't within d-scan of everything else,  you might as well start out at a central safespot. Hell, for that matter, put your tower in the center too.


  • Analyze your passive scan: Least-important, but fastest to analyze. Are there anomalies here? If there are anoms on the passive scan and enemies on d-scan, they'll often coincide.

  • Analyze D-scan: Any enemy ships? If yes, uncheck ‘use my overview settings’ and re-d-scan, looking for wrecks. If you see wrecks and ships, they’re shooting sleepers. No wrecks might mean mining (highly unlikely), gas harvesting (less unlikely), haulers using our system as a way through to known space (happens rarely, but does happen), et cetera.

If you see no ships here either, do the same thing from as many different locations in the system as you must to cover everything.

If you still see no strangers, you may deploy scanning probes. (Of COURSE you logged out in a ship that can scan.) Once you have done that, either recloak or jump back into our tower.

If there are any warning signs of ships, and you have a combat scanning-capable ship, get back out of d-scan of the enemy, launch probes, and perform a blanket scan to start locating them.

Once you've gotten to the part where you're scanning, check our system's secure webpage again; it will tell you how many wormholes there should be in the system and (if it’s up to date) even what their IDs are. Use your probes to resolve and bookmark them (and verify there aren’t more than those listed), but don’t visit them if you have the right number and want to keep the system "closed". (Unopened outgoing exits cannot be gotten into from the other side.)

Now that you know everything's secure, and where your exits are, you are ready to Do Exciting Activities, either solo or with others (who, if you are very lucky, might have even done a lot of this preliminary work before you logged in -- remember to thank them).

Many ponies make light work.

By Way of Contrast...

... let me break down the login/security process I used when I was back in High Security Known Space.

  1. Log in.

  2. Take a mission.

  3. Go run it.

  4. Repeat.

I believe the pros and cons of both types of play are self-evident.

I leave the determination of their relative appeal as an exercise for the reader.

Wormholers: What did I forget?

Sound off in the comments.