2012-05-01

Life in a Wormhole: Manning the Barricades #eveonline

[Something very strange happened yesterday, and because of that this post didn't show up on the website, nor did it actually save in WordPress. It *did* however show up in my RSS feed (which is apparently subscribed to an alternate timeline of my life), so I was able to grab it from there and repost it here... for the first/second time yesterday/today. The time loop is closed. Or... opened? Wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey. ]

No, we’re not under attack again; the title comes from a question posed by Patito in the comments of the last post:
Given recent events, I’m rather curious what your opinions are about the number of pilots needed to reliably and safely work a wormhole. Specifically in your opinion, what is the minimum number of pilots needed (assuming all in the same timezone and relatively similar play schedules) to make living in a C2 pleasant? As I understand it, when you run with smaller numbers someone might come along and decide you need to be removed and there’s not much you can do about it.

So this is really two questions, about which (I have learned) everyone’s opinions are going to differ. (Since we moved out of our old system, we’ve been talking a lot about what we want to do next, and part of that discussion process exposes everyone’s thoughts on how many people we “need” to accomplish given tasks.)

Making Living Pleasant
Let’s address these two questions in order, starting with “how many people do you need to make living in a wormhole pleasant?” I’ll mostly stick to talking about the lower-end wormholes, because (a) that’s what he asked about and (b) that’s what I know the most about. That said, the differences between living in a c2 versus a c5 are largely those of scale, so most of this should broadly apply anywhere in Anoikis.

To an extent, it depends on what you want to do in the wormhole. If the basic idea is that you want to just shoot the local sleepers for their loot, run some planetary interaction, maybe occasionally poke around in your connecting systems or something, then you don’t need many folks at all, especially if any of the players have an alt account who can sit on a second screen and be your passive lookout while you’re doing something that leaves you vulnerable. Class Two sleeper anomalies can be soloed reasonably easily in about twenty minutes or so with decent combat skills, and the same amount of isk can be made from gas clouds or asteroid fields in roughly the same amount of time. A few extra people makes it go much faster, to the point where even if you split the loot from a group effort, you’re doing as well or better than you would be on your own — good design, CCP! Bottom line, you can make about 60 to 80 million isk in an hour in a c2 wormhole, whether you’re alone or with a couple friends. It was just me, CB, and Gor in our first wormhole, and we were fine: our own paranoia and inexperience hampered us more than anything, really — we didn’t see some of the features of our system as the opportunities they were.

There are benefits to a decent class two system in terms of PvP as well: Class two systems are unique among wormholes in that they all have two guaranteed wormhole connections, rather than one. This automatically gives you multiple options in terms of people to shoot. Our second wormhole (the one we recently left) was an explorer’s dream, as it connected to additional class two wormhole space, which meant we were guaranteed no less than two additional wormholes to poke around in every day, plus a connection to PvP-friendly low-sec in the other direction. Our only mistake there, in terms of having someone to shoot, was that we kept the entrances closed much of the time, which meant we lowered our chances of getting tourists in from known space. Eventually, we rectified that.

Regardless of your known-space connections, there are opportunities: a persistent connection to high-sec left open and inviting can be hilarious fun (more on that in a few days), low-sec gives you immediate access to individuals who are frequently only out for a good fight, and a null-sec gives you a chance to roam through vast, largely uninhabited space without the need to worry about low-sec gate guns and other annoying technical issues. The same spread of opportunities exists when you start looking at your wormhole-space exits as well: Class 1 and Class 3 systems often house pilots who don’t expect a fight since those two types of wormholes do not enjoy persistent connections to wormhole space, where as Class 4 and higher systems tend to attract pilots looking for a good fight and more comfortable with long stretches of time away from known space.

Obviously, if you’re going to be more active with your PvP, you may want a few more people online, especially if you’re looking to do something other than stealthy covert ganking of unsuspecting soft targets (the meat and potatoes on most most wormhole PvP menus) — even sitting off an open high-sec exit waiting for an unsuspecting explorer to jump in requires a bit of commitment and maybe an extra set of eyes to do it right. In our first wormhole we were lucky to share the system with a German corporation. Between us, we were able to keep eyes on the system much of the time. In our second home, we had more pilots around, but all on the same timezone. This made it easier to ‘do something’ during our primetime, but far more blind during our off hours.

Too many pilots makes things somewhat more difficult in another direction, of course: in our second home, all of our pilots logging in at the same time usually meant that some system was about to be stripped to the bone like a cow dropped into a hazy cloud of piranha. That said, I think that for the health and longevity of your group it’s often better to err on the side of slightly too many pilots for your available resources rather than slightly too few — many hands will generally always make light work, the profits available in a wormhole usually scales pretty well, and unexpected PvP opportunities are always more easily handled when you have more people around on your side to join in. Conversely, with fewer pilots you might easily find yourself in a situation where you must pass an opportunity by (either for PvE or PvP) simply because you don’t have enough people (or the “right” people) to take advantage.

So… what does that all mean? I guess “it depends”. I’m a huge fan of Penny’s blog Tiger Ears, which features two pilots (and a rotating background cast) living quite happily out of a class four wormhole. They’ve had to take a breather in k-space when things got too hot, but generally they make it work, and work quite well. Based on that, I think you can easily make an argument for as few as one smart, active player doing quite well in a wormhole (though that sounds like it would get pretty boring after awhile).

By the same token, the idea of being part of a corporation with dozens of active members, all in the same high-class wormhole also appeals to me — good odds of there always being someone else on when you want to do something, and of there being enough people on to do whatever catches your fancy.

The only thing I don’t think works very well is a situation where you have pilots spread out over a bunch of systems, whether you’re all in the same corp or in dozens — it’s just a good way to guarantee that you’ll never be where you need to be. A couple systems, maybe with exits that make it easy to move back and forth? Fine. Otherwise…

A Question of Survival

To refresh your memory, the last part of the question was:
As I understand it, when you run with smaller numbers someone might come along and decide you need to be removed and there’s not much you can do about it.

I wanted to address this separately, because I think there’s a difference between “having enough people to effectively live in a wormhole and enjoy yourselves” and “having enough people to keep from getting your head caved in by a fleet of battleships.”

It’s possible to do that first thing fairly easily. However when it comes to hole defense in the face of a determined and/or powerful attacker, you will either have enough people or you won’t — it’s somewhat out of your hands, because if a group seriously wants to burn your stuff, then they will probably do that, unless you are very lucky or extremely dedicated.

Really, that statement should read: “When you [live in a wormhole] someone might come along and decide you need to be removed.” Period and full stop. Whether you have only a few members or over a hundred will not change what a determined opponent will do — it will only affect how many people they bring along to do it.

Those cloaky tech 3 cruisers we dealt with over the last couple months were all members of an alliance with more than enough active members to stage a successful tower siege — they have the means and the manpower and the resources — they didn’t do that because they didn’t want to do it, pure and simple, and if they had wanted to the end result would have simply boiled down to who had a deeper roster of people willing to come help or who had a deeper wallet with which to hire mercenaries.

Basically, moving into a wormhole in EvE is a lot like undocking a ship — you need to leave the station with assumption that the ship you’re in is already lost. Maybe not today — you might get lucky — but eventually, it’s scrap. If you move into a wormhole, write that investment off — as soon as you anchor and online a tower, accept the fact that you might never be given the opportunity to take it down again under your own terms. Assume it’s gone.

Maybe not today — you might get lucky — but eventually.

If things go better than that, you’ll feel really good; if they don’t, you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a dirty little secret about wormholes: they haven’t made me rich. I have pretty much exactly the same amount of liquid Isk as I did the first day we moved into our first wormhole, well over a year ago. (Although it’s fair to say I have more wealth in assets than I did.) Wormholes let me have the kind of fun I enjoy, in the amounts I like to have it, and generally break even. If I get ahead for awhile, I’m sure Berke will lose another Orca during a hole crash; if I get behind, that’ll be the week I find a really sweet wormhole to sell on the market. It works out.

And if someone shows up with fifty battleships in formation around my tower?

Well, I’ll put up a hell of a fight. I’ll throw every ship I can at them. I’ll use all the tower defenses that I have at my disposal, because I went to great effort to set up a tower that is as defensible as I could make it. But if they have more firepower and equal will, they’re going to win. At some point, I’m going to wake up in a clone out in high-sec, and I’ll have to start over.

Which is exactly what I’ll do.

What I’m trying to say in this (very long) answer to that (very tricky) question is that you should try to have enough people around you to do whatever it is you want to do, but don’t cripple yourself by saying you don’t yet have enough people to defend against some hypothetical tower-crushing assault. You don’t. You never will — they will just bring more people. If you join a big alliance to *get* that kind of protection, you’re going about things the wrong way — an alliance can help you with your corporation-sized problems, but once you join that alliance, you won’t have corporation-sized problems anymore; your problems become alliance-sized: you attackers won’t send enough people to take you out — they’ll send enough people to take you-and-your-allies out, or they won’t come at all.

Or they’ll show up in cloaky gank ships, which isn’t a problem you can beat with numbers, regardless.
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