Bait is useless if not taken

Its been a while since I wrote on these hallowed pages, may both my remaining readers forgive me for spending more time at work, outdoors (spring?) and in Fallout 4 (survival).  By the way, Survival is the only way Fallout 4 should be played.  Its unforgiving, awesome and truly scary. The fact that death has real consequences makes stalking through open fields and dungeons so much more rewarding.  Yes, Fallout 4 gives me the shakes.

But back to EVE.  Our little corporation Z3R0 Return Mining (and yes we are recruiting, contact Epigene in game) lives in a C4 wormhole with access to C3 and C5 neighbors plus of course frequent incoming connections to pretty much everywhere.  A few days ago, I find myself logging in and scanning down an incoming connection from another C4 hole, mentally add scouting it to my to-do-list and proceed with a little bit of PI and a whole load of AFK-ness while the evening matures.

My corpmate Storm logs in for a little and we chat on comms while casually shutting down our respective RL households for the night when suddenly a Vexor Navy Issue appears from the incoming C4 and beelines to one of our gas sites.  A VNI is a fine boat (I have several) but this specific site spawns several sleeper frigates and cruisers, some web, some neut, all shoot.  Its a site type I know well and I tend to drop a Dominix into it rather than a Vexor but I am all ears how our guest wants to run it with a cruiser.  Turns out, he doesn’t do it well.  His drones get shot down, he is too slow and has to warp off.  Back to his hole, only to return with a Gila.  Oh, really.

Now to be fair, neither Storm nor I have really paid attention.  For all we know, there could be dozens of cloaked ships in our system cleaning their launchers.  A Gila can be brick-tanked, they hit like a dump-truck and his cavalry is at worst one jump over.  This is exactly how bait smells like.

We take it, of course.  My Proteus does his bull terrier thing, drops to zero km on the Gila and grabs him by the nuts.  I launch a couple of Hammerheads and start with the blasters while at the same time my other character in his Stratios lands and releases his complement of drones.  I have neuts on this boat but Gilas tend to be passive tanked and I am not too concerned about keeping it up.  Being in our own home system has a distinct advantage, Storm reshipped into a Deimos, undocks from our citadel and warps toward, then lands on top of us and makes the Gila go dead really fast.  Throughout this time, Storm had a character in a Falcon cloaked up on their hole but no hostile cavalry ever arrived.  The pod escapes our fangs and warps off.  I chase after it and a little bit recklessly jump into their system.  My logic is that if a trap had been set, it would have sprung when we dropped on the Gila.  It wasn’t and hence isn’t.  My jumping into their system is pretty safe and I make the usual complements of safe spots and tactical bookmarks around their citadels.

To be honest, they have a pretty decent size crew here, 4 citadels with a total of 6 characters docked up, likely one or two more cloaked somewhere (we saw a bomber earlier).  Not a brawl we can take head-on in a fair fleet fight (Storm and I can field 2 characters each and neither of us is elite PvP-er).  But if they were stupid once, they might be stupid again?

The waiting starts.  The locals undock a bunch of ships, even a hauler, an Epithal (!) but they only to move between citadels.  Its a surprising amount of activity for a corporation that has overtly hostile neighbors.  Interesting.

Finally, I have enough and scan down their C2 static connection, the only other signature in this place.  My presence here is not a secret, might as well see where the connections are.  Suddenly a Rattlesnake undocks from the citadel and warps to my newly identified C2.  Now that is bait if we ever saw it.  The Rattle jumps into the C2, my Proteus after it (impossible that they don’t know that I am here by now) and I am bringing my Stratios into the C4.  Storm is around with his Falcon but to be honest, we shouldn’t jump a Rattlesnake with an entire system full of hostiles between our home and the target.  That would be dumb, foolish and suicidal.

So, thats exactly what we do.

The tactics is the same as for the Gila, I drop my Proteus onto the Rattlesnake and grab him while bringing in my Stratios and guide in Storm’s DPS boat.  The idea is to overheat everything and burn the Rattle to the ground as fast as can be done before his friends arrive.

The view from my Stratios

 

The Rattlesnake targets my Stratios and he hurts me badly.  I have neuts on him primarily to shut down his tank and his launchers but I can’t do anything against his drones.  As a battleship, he is stationary and I turn off the webs to conserve cap. The fight keeps going, Storm lands on grid and adds considerable DPS.

Then, nearly as expected, 4 cruiser-size ships land on top of us and D-scan shows a bomber somewhere.  Our opposition even brings a an Exequror logistics boat.  I only have two scout-class ships both in 1/2 armor, Storm has his ship and a Falcon nearby.  We can’t win this and we bail – very luckily, neither Storm nor my characters are tackled.  I credit my neuts, that bait Rattlesnake should have had tackle and I probably had sucked him dry.  Lucky, I guess.  The hostiles spam local with oh-so scary taunts.

Disengaged, we decide that its a terrible idea to jump back through their system into ours.  We have no idea whats on the other side and if it was me in their shoes, there would be bubbles.  So, while Storm moonwalks around the system, I scan down the high sec and we both camp out in safety.

Lessons learned?  Sometimes obvious bait isn’t and sometimes it is. But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

 

Not every Gnosis is bait…

As my remaining two readers may recall, most of my Wormhole posts start with “and then I opened our new connection“.  This post is no different.

The adventure starts when I jump into our newly-spawned C3 neighbor and to my dismay find that it is a “shattered hole”.   For you sad k-space dwellers, Shattered Systems have more variety of anomalies and signatures, ice belts but no moons to anchor a POS on and of course you can’t park a Citadel there either.  CCP went back to the whole concept that WH space was designed for transient occupation at best.  Its also a riskier hunting ground since they – generally – have more connections are are quite big, something can easily hide off-Dscan for example. Continue reading

Duck Season

 

It is no secret to my last remaining pair of readers that our corporation (Z3ro Return Mining) lives in C4 space with an ever-changing C3 neighbor.  Life and wormholes are like boxes of chocolates, you never know what you find when you open one; C3s are quite popular actually since they always have a connection to K-space and hence allow the riches of Wormhole life with the added advantage of easy access to the markets.

Last Monday, Oreamnos Amric and myself find ourselves alone at home, Orea is our CEO, Alliance Boss, Supreme Commander and Dear Leader.  He also manages our corp payouts so I suck up to him.  While Orea is doing accounting things, I open our C3 with my scouting Proteus whilst having my alt in a Stratios on standby in our hole.  D-scan shows me 3 Tengus, a tractor unit and a mess of wrecks.  I quickly move, cloak and with narrow beam find out where these site runners are and within 10s, I have eyes on them from 100km. Continue reading

Planetary Interaction in High Sec – pocket money for casual players

As both my remaining, loyal, handsome and intelligent readers may remember, I have a little alt-corp that lives in a High Sec pocket somewhere behind low / null systems.  I use this team to afk-mine belts Veldspar (because the rocks are so big) in Retrievers or Mackinaws, export the minerals to Gallente space where I do “industry”, i.e. make random stuff for which I have mats when I remember and then I forget to sell it.  In addition, my little group does PI on nearby planets that serve as nearly 100% passive income source. Continue reading

Impulse buying and other stories

It is an interesting time in EVE Online at the moment, with alpha clones supporting consistently high log-in numbers, citadels and engineering complexes sprouting faster than they can be destroyed and solid wars keeping players and main stream media engaged.  Yes, EVE has never been in a better place; our generation’s lament “EVE is dying” is dead.

It does beg to question what comes next.  The engineering complexes came out late last year and collectively we gave CCP a well-deserved Christmas break, not expecting any serious updates.  Sure, we now anticipate the release of drilling platforms that will serve as the end of the maligned (or loved) POS.  The death of pulsing, blue ball is neigh and while I fully understand the reasons behind the move, I will also be a little sad to see it go.  The whimsical soap bubble of safety, floating by itself in a J-system has always had the appearance of a makeshift hunter or logging camp promising safety and vulnerability at the same time.  Instead we get solid looking structures, mega cities that we can imagine filled with thousands of hopeful humans living at the mercy of us godlike capsuleers.  Especially in J-space, where would the survivors go when an Astrahus finally succumbs to an onslaught of foes?  It is not in human nature not to prepare for these events and I imagine the Sisters of EVE organizing caravans of rescue ships every time one citadel goes into structure.

Alright, enough philosophy.  How about my last weeks?

Well, its been one of those periods where not a single specific event shaped my online time but rather a bunch of little things that are individually amusing and collectively a mirror of what is possible in EVE, maybe even representative of the breadth of the game itself.

Here follows the summary of a few events in no particular order. Continue reading

Friends with benefits

As both of my remaining two readers may remember, I live in Wormhole Space, more specifically, a C4 with a static C5 and a static C3.  Just in case you don’t know what that is, this means that we have two connections at any given time plus whatever other holes spawn into us.  But it also means that every day we have new neighbors and since neighbors in Wormhole space are generally armed to the teeth we tend to fly with the assumption that everyone is out there to kills us.  And vice versa, of course.  But we do like our C3 connections since it is generally our supply line to empire space where fuel and sundries are brought in and PI and gas products are shipped out.  And thus, the other night we open a new connection and commence a little scouting before we commit the haulers when our scout reports a second set of Sisters probes and a T1 Imicus on D-scan. That generally indicates that a brand new player just had come in from High Security space and is looking for hacking sites which arguably are by far the most money a an Alpha clone can make / hour. Continue reading

New player experience – Our job starts now

EVE Online is going “free to trial” with the introduction of Alpha clones that can in principle do the same things for free that we pay monthly for but with less powerful tools. This allows players to experience all that EVE has to offer but with no real monetary risk involved.  The EVE community is strongly behind this for the simple reason that more players = more content = more fun.  EVE online is one of the very few MMOS where human interaction actually matters and bringing new players into the game has always been a heated topic.  Other than the monthly subscription and EVE’s (unjustified) reputation of “Excel in Space for supernerds and sociopaths”, what really stands in the way of new players experiencing our Universe is the sheer complexity of the EVE game.  The choices that a relatively young pilot can make are staggering.  You can create your new character and immediately embark on a trip into the deepest, darkest depth of Sovereignty Null Security or Wormhole space.  Nothing other than players will stop you.  And we will, of course, which is what this is all about.  New players get easily confused by this freedom and log off, blaming the game for its steep learning curve and that “you can’t catch up”.  We know that this is nonsense but it has been a very hard reputation to kill.

I wondered, though, how do other games do this?  While we EVE players think we are special, other games have the exact same issues.

Progression-based games like World of Warcraft or Elder Scrolls Online make it simple, you roll a new character in an entirely protected starter area (“petting zoo”) and gently plink away at a few sheep or rabbits until you get the hang of the one weapon and the one move you have.  Then you level and progress. Incrementally, you get more skills, tougher foes, broader choices where to go.  The world opens up, increasing freedom is created by increasing the decision space and the player is gently let loose into the greater world.  This caring, nurturing approach is a combination of protection (starter zones don’t allow PvP) and motivation (specific tasks that a new player can accomplish and where failure is reversible).  EVE Online has a rocky history with security for new players in general and the concept of entirely safe starter zones has been discussed ad nauseam.  But in the end, “safety” doesn’t fit the narrative of the game and philosophically, EVE does not need to be Warcraft, we are allowed to be different.  And while there is nowhere safe in New Eden, brand new players are now guided along a much more specific path with clearer goals, engaging missions before they are gently set down on their own feet.  This is laudable, hugely needed and in effect the only realistic way that CCP can act.

How about free-to-play games?  I recently picked up War Thunder, a game where you pilot a tank or a plane, get dropped into an arena with your team and shoot at people that are on the other team.  The arcade style game promises quick 15 minute increases in heart rate, little adrenaline rush between grinding work conference calls.  And to be sure, the new player is given a tank that works as expected, a 5 minute tutorial on a shooting range and is dropped into battles where the goal is clear, the risks are zero and the sight of burning tanks is oddly satisfying.  I loved zooming around in my starter tank, sneak around a corner and wallop a shell into the unprotected rear end of an evil foe.  If detected, I could take a hits and generally run away.  Fun game!  And then I leveled and everything stopped.  Somehow, I was advanced into a new tier (not my doing) and found myself entirely under-armored and under-gunned.  Now, if I sneaked into a position and land a hit on an enemy, my strongest shell will generate “no damage” on my enemy.  More often though, I don’t even get into position but am one-shotted by an unseen tank literally across the entire map.  The game experience is excruciatingly bad and I simply serve as a feeder for those who are willing to pay some form of real life currency to advance their tanks.  Obviously, as soon as I find another game that scratches this it, WarThunder is deleted from my PC.

New players in EVE online will face a similar issue with they Alpha characters, if they ramp up the risk a little (i.e. venture into lowsec), they will be clay pigeons to the shotguns of established PvP outfits. Heck, even I may go hunting for foolish newbs who take their Ventures out of highsec in search of riches.  But here also comes the difference to WarThunder.  Once a new player is shot dead, generally the killer engages him with real advice, money and maybe recruits him to his team. For doubters, this scenario is far more common that one thinks.  Old EVE players are nearly compulsory teachers, we want new players be better, stronger and on our side.  This is the fundamental difference between WarThunder and EVE – the game, the mechanics and player base is geared toward engagement and interaction, without it, we’d have no New Eden.

Ok, lets head back to other games.  A while ago, I did purchase Elite:Dangerous and attempted the tutorials. Space, vehicle shooters, WASD, all seemed familiar.  However, then the tutorial was so bad that I could not for the life of me figure out how to undock and had watch YouTube for the most basic guides.  My friend Oreamnos flew many lightyears to watch me fail to dock, apparently a common occurrence when one tries to fly without a joystick.  I don’t have a joystick, sorry.  Nowhere did it say that I must have one and I was willing purchase one to improve the game, not to enable it.  I tried the game again last week and while the tutorials are much improved, some bug prevented me from docking and frustration ran high.  As a new player, I am frustrated not by the social interaction but but the sheer opaqueness of the game control trying to achieve my minimalist goals.

Now, this is something that EVE is at risk of also.  Aside from the New Player Experience, EVE is full of weird menus and occult wisdom how to operate it. Look at the Overview and how its set up, to be honest I still don’t understand half of its option. And yes, for some situations, the player must interact with these archaic systems and without the community, the new player will soon be driven off.

So, I do feel bullish about bringing in Alpha players into our game and hobby and I do believe CCP has done their part to facilitate a gently entry and a reasonably soft landing.  But it is our job to take Alphas by the hand, point them into the right direction and give them a mighty kick in rear to get them out of missions, mining and into exploration and explosions.