Sunday, April 6, 2014

Where are the hoobs?

No, that should not be "noobs", I'm referring to wormhole noobs - hoobs. And, more interestingly, where are the organizations and individuals that take care of them? Where are the RvB's, Eve Uni's and Brave newbie's of the w-space world? To whom do I turn if I'm new to the whole w-space and don't have so much skill-points? And who introduces Eve to total newbies from a w-space perspective?

Now, the general idea among us wormhole folks is that you need a certain level of experience and a minimal level of skill-points to even consider stepping into the great unknown. Most corporations that recruit, do so with a minimum bar of 10-25M skill-points. But what about the really, really new ones? Is w-space really meant to be off limits for newbies with just a few million skill-points?

I don't think so.

I think that just as "if you can fit a point and fly a frig you can pvp" is true, I think "if you can launch probes and have enough friends you can explore w-space" is just as true. I think the whole idea of what w-space is all about have been kidnapped by an elitist few, contorted into some only-the-best-is-good-enough bullshit that only focus on the high-end content. When was the last time the w-space "community" discussed C1's and C2's from a newbie perspective?

So where do a three million SP newbie that are really interested in w-space turn for professional guidance? Is there some old w-space vets out there that give some of their time and wisdom to such a corporation? If there is, I don't know about them. If you know about such a group, one that take on newbies with the intent to make the best out of w-space for them, with their limited SP, let me know! I really looking for somebody that a) got deep experience and knowledge in w-space and b) don't tell people to "train for a Drake and then we will talk".

The thing is, I really have the feeling that there's a bunch of content out there that goes almost totally unexploited as it is now. When CCP designed the C1's and C2s, I'm sure they were trying to create something that, for a low skilled player, would be a challenge but not impossible to manage.

So where are the Brave Hoobies?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Noobie-tip of the day: The 100MN AB

There's a ton of little knowledge nuggets that are very known to anyone that have lived in w-space for even the shortest amount of time, but might not be used by pilots new to the great unknown. Small things, that if utilized, can make a huge impact on the effectiveness of your operations. Or simply increase the quality of living in a w-system.

Back when I lived in a C2/HS/C4 we did a lot of WH rolling, and it often was holes that we did not know just how much mass that had been through. Which meant that we often had to take it a bit easy when getting close to critical. Often was the times when we did not want to put another battleship through. This is when you need a closing cruiser! A cruisers mass is around a tenth of a battleship, that's a lot of jumps to close that last, say 80kt on a WH. However, a running 100MN afterburner always adds 50kt, no matter the size of the ship. This means a 100MN AB fitted cruiser becomes a ship that can weigh 10kt one way (if you jump through critical wormholes you obviously want to be as light as possible), but reduce an impressive 60kt if jumping "heavy", that is, with the AB running. Pretty useful, eh?

Now, 10kt might still close the WH (I've seen holes collapse from a pod). Would it not be nice if we somehow could decrease the mass on that cruiser like we increase it with the use of an over sized afterburner? Turns out that there's actually a way you can do this, and it's very effective. It comes with a small 'but' tho, the cruiser needs to be a HIC, a Heavy Interdiction Cruiser.

Why? Because the magic is in the effect a Warp Disruption Field Generator have on the mass of the ship that have fitted it. And you can only fit that module to HICs. This thing reduces mass by a whooping 80%. And you can fit more then one! Which means that with two bubbles up your mass is getting close to that of a pod. That is, your cruiser is lighter than a shuttle.

The result is a ship that can jump through a critical wormhole one way, hardly reducing it by anything, but with its afterburner running it weigh in at more than half of a battleship (about 60kt). That's the perfect closer for wormholes that reached critical mass.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Disastrous Orca

I had moved out of the friendly C4 with the spiring new w-space alliance and was on my way to a new new system. This time it was a C4/C4 and it had plenty of sites, but the idea was to do the plexing in the static instead of the comfortable familiarity of your own system.

Now I needed to get my Orca with ships and POS in.

C4s that do not have a static C2 or C3 are notoriously hard to find good routes to. At least if you wish to not jump your Orca through Tama and Old Mans Star to get there. C4 logistics makes for a ton of scanning. This is particularly true if you are solo and can't share the burdens with a few corp-mates.

It was getting late, and I really wanted to get situated in this new system. The route that I had found was not pretty, nor simple, but it had to do.

When running a ship that do not have any offensive capabilities at all (well, normally) and can't hide or run away you really need to scout ahead. A single scout can really ruin your day - you want empty systems.

Two systems from my target C4 was this C5 that had been as empty as they normally are. But while C4s can lay untouched and stay clear of incoming wormholes for days, C5s sees much more traffic, and traffic that's of a much more dangerous quality. C5s gets rolled all the time. All the larger w-space entities scan and roam long chains of C5/C6 systems. The chance of one of their forward scouts being the beginning to your end is substantial.

It all comes down to intel. Knowing whats lurks out there. One of the best ways to be sure it's reasonably safe is to spend time in a system. The longer time that have passed without anything on scan, or any new sigs appearing, the better. But spending time was not something I had done this time. I had a forward scout just checking out the system as I jumped the Orca one system at a time.

When i warped the scout through one of the C5 systems I saw a Tengu on scan for a moment. That don't need to mean anything, but it could be worrying. Especially since I found a covert ops from Ash alliance on the WH I was just landing at zero at. What was even worse was that my Orca was already inbound to that very wormhole, and it was going to land any second. To warp the Orca before you had carefully scouted the next hole is obviously not recommended, and not something I normally do, but I was dead tired and was totally off the little game I normally have.

I quickly jump my scout in the hope the scout would follow and not notice the hulk of a ship that was inbound. It jumped, and I got my scout away clean on the other side. The Orca now had to do a 180 at the hole and warp to a celestial to cloak up. From a standstill, my Orca warps in 10 seconds, but boy are those seconds endless when you have hostiles on the other side of the WH! Incredible, I managed to get the Orca away from the WH and safely cloaked up.

This is the time when I broke the second of the holy rules of w-space - patience!

With known activity from a major w-space alliance in the system, and them knowing about me, and possibly the Orca, it was no time to take any risks. Just cloak up, put your head down and wait it out.

For some reason that I really can't explain, I did the opposite. I took gamble on me knowing what they had and that I could outsmart and outrun them. The result was of course disastrous. An fully loaded Orca lost for no good reason.

Here's what happened.

I was cloaked, perfectly safe, in the Orca a few AUs away from the WH which where I previously almost had got the Orca tackled. From here I saw them try and scan me down with combats, and for a second a Cheeta Covert Ops appeared on the Orcas d-scan, just to disappear again. At the same time my scout on the other side saw a WH activation, the Cheeta taking a quick peek and then quickly jump back through the WH (and thus polarizing itself). They where clearly looking for the Orca.

I figured I should seize the opportunity and quickly warp the Orca to the WH, jump through and get away on the other side. I knew the Cheeta was polarized and could not follow, even if I would meet it on the WH with the Orca. Well, the assumption was that the Cheeta was alone, and since I already had seen a Tengu on scan I should have known it was not.

I landed the Orca, all kind of ships materialized and it was all over.

Lessons learnt (again!): don't play when you really want to sleep, and don't force a move when you do not have to, live to fight another day. Patience is golden!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

On CCP Fozzie's "delayed signatures" idea

I've been reading some of the comments on Fozzie's post about delaying signatures when spawning a new WH. Many have strong opinions one way or the other, few try to think through what the suggested change actually would implicate.

One reasonable opinion is that this is only going to favour the ones that can, and regularly do, field fleets of 20 T3s - hence, if you can you also are pro change, if you can't you are against it. I think that might have some truth to it, but it's missing the point.

What would happen? That's the important question to ask. And after that; Would we like the effect the change to the mechanics would have? Here is my view on the whole thing.

First off; there's no question this would make rolling holes for targets much, much easier and rewarding. The chance of finding someone to gank will increase massively by implementing them. Depending on the size of the delay, you could argue that it would basically mean that "in w-space anyone can de-cloak and attack you at any time, and they will usually have friends in warp when they do" Hence, the risk/reward ratio is pushed up significantly. People will start losing their PVE ships, and to do PVE content in w-space will mean to take this into account. One must remember that since the effectiveness of the combat-rolling of WH's gets a huge buff, these operations will be massively more common.

Higher risk/reward means harder to get to loot/salvage, which means higher price on sleeper-salvage. This will offset the effect to some degree, at least in lower class systems. A 50% increase in price of nano ribbons is a huge thing for the Drake in the C2, but hardly noticeable for the guys doing cap-escalations in a C5.

When the risk/reward ratio is changed, people will adapt by doing things differently, but more importantly flying different ships. Today, you can find marauders and T3s plexing C3s and C4s. Why? Because they are just a little bit more effective than your vanilla Drake. That is, as long as you don't take their price into account. With the proposed change, that equation is totally re-written. In C3s, you would only see Drakes and maybe battleships, all other ships is just too expensive to lose compared to the income.

In C4s today, top income from running plexes probably comes from dual-boxing battleships; Domis and Rattlers are popular, but also Marauders and even Nestors. This will most likely change. Depending on how quick PVP groups will take up rolling static C4s, the risk/reward is going to favour cheaper ships even in C4s. I can afford to lose my two Rattlers more than twice as often as my two Paladins. If I can afford to use them at all is going to be dependant on the amount of C4 rolling that's going on, ie. how often I get rolled while plexing.

Now, another way to change the risk/reward is to try and make your PVE ships harder to kill, maybe even a bit dangerous to attack in the first place. Having more people and bigger fleets is obviously better. Taking out a single guy/girl plexing alone in a Drake hardly takes a fleet at all, just the right ship. Attacking three of them in a system full of PVP ships that might, or might not, be on standby would be a slightly different matter.

The suggested change is such a game changer, we will certainly see new tactics and behaviour. Who knows, if the rolling gets common enough, folks might actually start plexing as bait. It might be easier to wait for somebody to find you and then counter-drop on them than to roll for plexers yourself? To tackle two Paladins is one thing, to tackle two Paladins, three cloaked Protei, a neuting Legion and three Guardians hidden in a neighbouring system is, again, a whole different matter.

Here is where the big difference between C5/C6 and lower class w-space becomes interesting. The risk/reward rule apply to C5/C6 as well, but since the escalations are so efficient, and can be run by so few people, it have become the only game in town for how to make ISK. If you live in a C5, you farm your sleepers this way, period. Any other way simply can't get close to the ISK/time/person ratio of quad escalations. The extreme might be three guys running 6-8 ships, doing 4 sites per hour. This would translate roughly to 1B/h per person. More common however, is solo-farmers using three accounts taking longer to do the sites, but still using the escalation mechanics to reach very high ISK/time numbers.

With the suggested change, both these extremes will also become extremely risky. There's no problem for any of the larger C5 groups to design, and field a fleet that will fit through a 3B wormhole and that would slaughter any small escalation-fleet in safety. The key word there, however, is "small". While there's a hard limit to the amount of capitals you can take with you, the inhabitants could possibly field as many caps as they have pilots for at any given time. Therefore the change would hurt small scale (few people, small groups) much more than larger groups, that just could trade ISK/time efficiency for security by simply involving more people in the plexing. Just the fact that you belong to a larger group and have a lot of afk'ers hanging at towers will increase the risk for the attackers. Hence, if you would like to solo-escalate with your four accounts you better do that as a member of a dragon, and not in your own, private little C5.

With the drastically increased risk of losing a cap-fleet, the risk/reward might just become skewed so far that the only ones you will see running escalations are the large ones. For smaller gangs, the equation might look better just running Marauders. If you start losing your cap fleet ever so often, the 300M/h you typically get from doing non-escalated C5's with marauder(s) will sound like a bargain. Or somebody will come up with a totally new way of killing sleepers that's a result of the suggested change, and takes the increased risk into account.

Personally, I'm not taking a stance at all. If the change becomes reality, w-space will change at it's core. Is it a good thing? Don't know. Adapt or die, I guess. The only thing I think might be an issue is if this will favour large corporations unreasonably more than small ones. Forcing the solo-farmers out of business I would not mind, but it would be a pity if the net effect would be even larger, or fewer, dragons.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Nomadic behaviour

I was done in my Red Giant, the sites all gone and the Vargur fit tested successfully. I was ready to move on. When I got a decent empire-connection I pulled down my small POS and moved my ships back to Amarr.

When I one day later stumbled upon a C4/C3 and over 20 combat sites, I decided to move in. The system was inhabited, but they did not seem to be very active or dangerous. They certainly did not want to run their sites! I saw no reason why I could not just move in and run the sites while they where busy elsewhere, or simply not present.

After I spent some time in the new system watching the locals (which more or less only was one guy trying to run the sites in a Tengu) I decided to play nice and actually announce my intentions of moving in, at the same time offering some help with the plexing, boosts and whatnot. The answer was positive but a little bit tentative. Not strange, all things considered.

I moved in, setup my small POS and got settled in. I might have surprised the system inhabitants just a little bit with the quick movement, but I had no reason to hang around. The static C3 made for plenty of potential low sec routes. Occasionally you even get a C3 with a high sec static (statistically that's about 1/5 of the time I think).

After speaking some with the locals, I understood that several corporations were involved. There was an old one nobody seen in ages but that owned the POCO as well as two other corps that had presence in the system in the form of one POS each. Now they might form an alliance together. A third corp that had operations in null sec where potentially also moving in, so in short - the system was a small brewing pot with a high chance of producing a new w-space alliance given some time. Remember, you heard it here first!

As it happened, I never got around to flying much with all this nice people because after one day in the system almost all the sites de-spawned and I only got around to running five or so. What a pity.

I moved out after a few days in the C4/C3, but made a few friends in the process.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just like Penny

Today I felt like Penny. I log in, scan out our static with my cloaky Tengu (I know it's not a Loki, but a cloaky T3 is close enough) and take a peak inside in the hope of finding someone doing something out in the open, but no luck.

I then drop probes and scan down the four signatures that's in here; the two statics, a HS to Minmatar, a C1, one EOL C3 and the system I came from. I opt to check the C1 first. It's static is a nullsec, and is relative empty, but I spot a scanner-probe on d-scan. That's always a good sign of activity. The only POS with a forcefield up is a medium one, belonging to a 12 man corporation. It's totally without defences. I guess you don't need much living in a C1/Null, eh? :)

When I see on d-scan that the probes disappear and a Buzzard appear, I note that the ship do not land in the POS. I sort of assume that it's someone from nullsec and not the inhabitants of this system. Nullsecc'ers often like to use w-space as easy routes to empire. I jump back to the C2 and there I find the probes again. Ok, now the scout will find the HS, jump out to check exactly where it is (thanks to Tiger Ears, most educated people can now place a WH reasonably well, just from the colour) and then, with a little luck (s)he will jump strait back, getting polarized. And with even more luck (s)he will end up within non cloaking range from the wormhole. I would then possibly have time to lock it up and kill it. That is, if I was uncloaked, ready, and with my sensor booster running. Maybe. Just maybe.

It's worth a shoot at least, so I warp to the high-sec hole and waited for the scout to find it and do as I predicted. Which (s)he did, but then he (s)he did not jump back in. Bah... When I checked the info on the guy I realized it was actually not a null inhabitant at all, but instead he was coming from the POS in the C1. Well, that changes little, because if you live in such a system you don't get high-sec connections everyday, so there's a good chance this is a scout for some hauler, like you see from null so often.

I hardly had time to think that thought through, before a Tayra (or a Badger Mk II as us oldtimers like to think of it) pops up on scan. And then promptly lands on the highsec and jumps out. Right before my cloaked eyes. Well, are they going out they most likely are going to come back in. I just switch my target-focus from an unlucky (he had to be really unlucky for me to catch it) Buzzard to a Badg... Tayra. I simply change the position of the planed gank to their system. Now that I know where they are going there's no need to try and kill something on a hopeless HS hole.

I warp the Tengu back to their C1 system and jump through. Nothing on scan. The two pilots I've seen so far are probably the only ones active, but you never know. In any case, I have no reason to think they have eyes on this hole. I re-cloak and starts to wait for the scout and the Tayra. To catch and tackle your prey just when it jumped through a hole is advantageous because once tackled, their only option is to jump back and get polarized. Me on the other hand can not only follow, but also, if something bad would happen, jump a second time.

However, while staring at the hole I begin to think I might made a tactical error. Do I de-cloak directly on wormhole fire? What if the scout jumped first? But not de-cloaking until you see the hauler have it's dangers also since there's a delay after de-cloak during you can't get a lock. I have a sensor-booster, which mean the lock time itself will not be long, but that cloak delay... I would hate to see such a simple target as a hauler get away just because I did not de-cloak in time.

They also take their time getting back. What if they are getting something else in? That POS looked quite new, maybe they ware going to bring in some more ships? Forgetting I'm in a C1, my bet is a Raven. Ravens always seems to appear at wormholes in low class w-space when you least expect it. Could I take on a battleship? Sure, but it would take time and they might get reinforcements.

This is where I'm starting to stray from the Penny mindset. She always hunt alone, and when she does get help, it's from a real friend, not an alt. She's a true w-space soloist, that's one thing that make her adventures so interesting.

I brought Tashi. He had just discovered the joys of large lasers and burned for the chance to test his Oracles pulses on something other than the Angels in our nullsec connection. Since the Oracle is not very cloaky, I had to hide him somewhere, and why not in plain view? The idea was to simply get him into highsec and off grid with the wormhole. With the help of local and a narrow scan towards the hole, he would be a great early warning system to both the fact they where incoming and what they were flying.

Unfortunately I had been to slow in my thought process, because when he lands on the highsec he just have time to see the backside of the Tayra (new name, same ugly behind) warping to their C1. Oh man... Well, no rest for the wicked. Tashi does an U-turn on the hole and warps right after the hauler. He lands on the C1 but no sight of the Tayra. Quick, quick! Jumpy, jumpy. On the other side he make contact, lock the ship up and with just two or three salvos he recycle the Caldari vessel into space dust. No point even needed. Well, that did not make the enthusiasm for lasers any less.

Tashi now have a new proverb; If you need a point, you don't have enough dps.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Architecture of a small gank

Who said you could not mess up as a carebear? Even with the new system scanner, and even if you do everything right. Even if you do things by the book, and have securing systems for plexing down to an art, there's still room for messing up. I just lost 2 billion in Rattlesnakes because I forgot to look at the scanner for new sigs. Possibly it was slightly bugged and did not display fully automatically. In any case, my point is; idiots still die.

I was on my last day in Gamma (or so I thought). I had tested the Vargur enough and now I wanted to go do something else. I still had 12 sites in my system and the idea was to quickly bring in my old trusty rattlesnake workhorses and kill those before I pulled down the POS. So I was 5 Frontier Barracks in, going on the last wave in the first Information Sanctum when all of a sudden a Legion appears on grid with me.

I was honestly quite shocked to see anyone manage to sneak up on me because the system was totally mine, all the sigs was known and the static was closed before I started plexing. I also watched the scanner for new sigs indicating a possible new K162. Something in all this had obviously failed, but I had no time to investigate further because now I was not fighting sleepers anymore!

As more ships appeared on grid with me, my first action was a futile attempt trying to run. One of my Rattlers was already scrammed by the sleepers and the Legion pointed the other one (lucky!). So I was screwed. Well, at least I could give them as good fight as possible before I went down.

I started to lock up the ones that had arrived. Legion, Proteus, Devoter and a Helios that probably was the bastard that found me. I had Gardes out and the covops was not moving enough, so I quickly popped it. Because the pod did not warp away (most likely because of dualboxing) I could lock it up and kill it. Next on the list was the Legion. He was already in armor from the sleepers when I got the Gardes working on it. When it popped, the sleepers and my two rattlers had brotherly divided the damage equally.

After that it got harder. I now had another Legion and Proteus to deal with, and since they were so close my Gardes could not hit them very well, even with tracking scripts loaded in all three links. My only other choice in drones was Bouncers, Warriors and Hammerheads. None of them was any good. I switched to Hammers in a desperate attempt to at least scratch the paint of the remaining T3s. Would I have had a set of Ogres they would have applied full 2K damage, and that would definitely have been a factor. With the new scripted omni-links you can get awesome tracking out of Ogres, they now kill sleeper-frigs as well as Warriors even if they still travel like stuck in syrup.

While this was going on, the group seemed to have problems breaking my tank. I had to overload my mids and forgot (naturally) to turn it off in time, so I burned out one of the invulnerable fields. Their response was neuts. But even if I would have had some Ogres to fight back with, I was not going anywhere and it was all over when they brought two Guardians. These guys probably found me while rolling their static, and were not quite ready for a gank, hence the late arrival of some of the ships. Had it been made in a proper way they would of course have had the Guardians on grid from the start and no one would have lost a ship. More then me that is :)