January 20, 2017

Stratios Vacation: Part 2

When last we left the tale of my Stratios Vacation I had decided not to head home but instead to log off in Cloud Ring.  I logged back in and indeed the WH to Lasleinur is gone.  I did have a momentary panic because I hadn't reloaded my probe launcher before I logged, and it occurred to me that I might have left my probes out to expire.  The changes made a while back that auto-retrieve your probes means that it is probably hard to actually lose them nowadays, but just in case that's probably a good point for other explorers: make sure you have a spare set of core probes on board.  I probe down the new single new signature - it's one of those low sig sites, but by the time I get to 0.5 AU it comes up as a Gas Site.  Nevermind that.

Moving from system to system I found that the area was strikingly absent of signatures.  Enough that I wondered if the locals make a point of running/rolling them, though I can't imagine they can be bothered to roll wormholes in such space.  Eventually I find a Relic Site and actually successfully run it to find about 7M worth of material.  As I start to move to the next can someone enters local, so I aim away from the can, hit the MWD to get range and go for the cloak - just as a Helios lands, with the charming pilot name of "SpaceSlut 3000" - definitely classy.  Anyway, the key question was "did he see me?"  I circle back towards him under cloak.  He's 24km away, so quite a bit more than my scram.  And he's off before I can make any other decision.  Musta saw me.

I move on to the next system and find seven signatures waiting for me (see what I get for complaining?).  After a couple gas sites, my classy Helios pilot enters system, accompanied by a Stilletto.  Meta 0 core probes drop, and the Helios stays on scan.  Our SpaceSlut is apparently only four months old, and doesn't have cloaking skills yet.  But he (no, I can't imagine the player of such a character is female) does have a friend (or a main, as the Stilleto pilot is from 2010) that can keep an eye out for them.  Good combination, I'm not interested in trying my luck there.

So time to move on - which brings me into the region of Fade.  Hey, I can see Deklein from here!  As I come into system, there's another null resident I happened to be in system with.  Right as our charmingly named pilot comes back into system, he apparently gets nervous.
Is that for me or the classy pilot? Who knows.

I moved along and got to a much more populated system (8W-OSE).  As soon as I cleared the gate, I was greeted in local chat, along with a posted image

This is more like what I've heard of nullsec residents keeps an eye out for intruders, and probably a bit more attention than I'd like.  In a Stratios I expect I can clear most gatecamps but, there's always a risk of an instalocker or a spread of wrecks/cans.  I also have seen the same toon appear in system about 66% of the time after I enter, so I'm starting to wonder if that's chance or if he's keeping an eye on the neutral.

I double back towards Cloud Ring.  In warping through I notice warp disruption bubbles.  They aren't in quite the right place to block my warp, but it's a good reminder.  I moved on back and there doesn't appear to be any pursuit.  Things quiet down and empty out as a I move away, so I get to a safe and put out some probes to check out the signatures. In the middle of scanning local shows the arrival of a new pilot, so I hit d-scan and see a Gnosis.  A check on the new pilot shows that it's a new character, started about when Alpha pilots became possible.  Hmm, a Gnosis is a logical ship for taking on bigger rats or even scanning for an Alpha pilot... but it's also a very well known hull for baiting.

Okay, so d-scan down the Gnosis.  I'm trying to use the d-scan by range trick that I've heard people describe rather than the more intuitive angle-scan approach.  Basically if you go to 360 degree scan and start reducing your range, you'll probably find that there's only one celestial at the range where the target disappears.  If you go by angle you'll have to do the sector by angle and then reduce range.  In any case, if the Gnosis shows up at a belt or an Anom then I'm going for it I figure, counting on my better character skills compared to the greater size of the battlecruiser.  Instead, it turns up near a gate.  That's a flag, but I warp over under cloak to check it out.

The Gnosis is orbiting the gate at range and I don't recognize the turrets definitively, but they look like they might be Rapid Lights, which would be good for dispatching light tackle.  The lazy wide orbit of a gate only seems to make sense as bait to me, so I warp away rather than try my luck.  If he had gone to the belt nearest the gate and shot a rat I might have gone for it, and the way I've see Gnosis set for bait I bet he could have tanked me until his buddies showed up.  The only trick might have been whether he could have kept tackle.  Given that I had a scram and neuts I would have been in range to be scrammed and webbed down, and if the Gnosis had a cap booster then it could have kept point on me despite the neuts.  But no.

Instead, I check out the signatures.  This area is feeling pretty responsive to neutral presence, and not terribly interesting for solo hunting, so when I find a wormhole to a C5 I decide to move on in.  That leads to a C2.  Googling shows someone on the forums once lived here and then was trying to buy a path back after accidentally rolling themself out.  The C2 has a static C4 and static high, so that could be interesting.  I log off here for the night, figuring I can use this as a good point to find something new next time I log in.

Good night, sweet wormhole! Good night, cloaked Proteus!

January 16, 2017

Fanfest 2017 Ticket Contest

Are you thinking about Fanfest 2017, but you haven't gotten tickets yet?  Let me help you make up your mind.  CCP has given fansites an extra ticket to give away, so here goes.  The contest is simple: comment on this post about what you like to see in Eve fansite blogs (as opposed to full-blown media sites like CZ, EN24, IN, etc).  I'd appreciate it if you can point out if my blog here has ever covered what you want, but if you're just honest and say "I never read your blog until this contest" then that's fine too.

I'll choose a random comment that fits that description on Friday and have CCP send you the ticket. Make sure you include some way for me to contact me in your post!

CCP legalese-type notes: Tickets are only for admission for Fanfest itself. This ticket does not include any extra events that require separate tickets, and CCP is not offering to pay for your hotel or flights. CCP will not be able to send goodie bags to those that can’t attend in person.

On that last point, I'd be pretty annoyed if the winner of the ticket didn't go, so please don't enter if you don't think there's a decent chance you'll go.  To help incentize that, I'll throw in a free drink for the contest winner if we can get together at some point during Fanfest.

Good luck!

January 11, 2017

Stratios Vacation: Part 1

On New Year's Day I decided it was time for something a little different - particularly since the family is away visiting my wife's best friend.  A change of pace from the usual FW play, though as I noted in the last blog there certainly has been a good bit of content there lately.  So I packed up a Stratios and headed out into the great unknown.  This entry (and some coming up) will be the tale of how that little vacation went.  I'm also going to try to get back to my "Lessons Learned" bit that I used to include regularly in the blog.

Note: I'm trying some things I'm decidedly not an expert at, so don't try this at home kids!  Oh, and advice on what I did wrong is quite welcome.

Setting Out. I decided not to post the fit right off the bat since as of this moment the hull hasn't been lost and I'm not good enough at this game to give up too much info.  The general plan though is that I want to be able to PVP when the opportunity arises, but I have a mobile depot to swap things out.  I even have relic and data analyzers in the cargo, though the last time I did hacking was back when the cans would spew out all over the place.  I figure there's a very good chance this Stratios is going to die, so insurance is bought and it's time to undock!

Probing: I always use the pinpoint pattern.  As far as I know you would only use the spread pattern if you're trying to quickly figure out how many items of interest are in the area, without immediate need to resolve them to 100% and warp.  Perhaps the combat probe experts might have something more to say about that.  Another trick that newer folks might not know is that sites/WHs are always going to be within 4 AU of a planetary body, so you can save a pass at 8 AU in many cases where the red sphere of uncertainty is off-center of that planet.

I see a corpmate has already found and bookmarked a wormhole to a C3 right here in Suj, but there's also another WH sig that hasn't been investigated, so I scan that down and warp to 20 km, which is my usual safe distance to be able to check it out without being so close as to bump into someone (or the WH) and lose cloak, but still be within range to burn in and go through a WH easily enough.  It's a lowsec hole, so that sounds like potential fun.

Lasleinur (0.2, Metropolis, Minmatar held).  There are 7 in local, and I'm seeing frigs and dessies on d-scan.  I don't want to get caught up in a fight with a bunch of those.  There are 10 signatures, so I start working them down, looking only for WHs as this system is too busy to try hacking or a combat site.  My general practice is that if I scan down a WH I'll warp to it to check it out while I move the probes on to the next sig.  I forgot I had left myself cloaked off a C6 hole, and then got a surprise when I heard the wormhole splash sound.  I panicked for a moment that I'd been decloaked as I switched back from the probing window just in time to see it was a Cheetah passing through and I was still cloaked.

Along the way I found a tiny, hard to scan signature.  When you're at 1AU and only 12% or so, it's something unusual.  If it had been a hole to a shattered WH system then I might have turned around and gone back to Suj to reship to check it out.  But instead, Relic Site. :(

I'm finding it distracting as corpmates post juicy kills on the corp channel, but I stick with it.  Time for a vacation, right, gotta stick to the plan.

My general practice is to decloak and reload the probe launcher as I'm burning for the wormhole, so that it's loaded when I come out the other side.  I wonder if that's what other people do?

U65-CN (-0.1, Cloud Ring).  I see this is listed as -0.01, which if I understand right means it's terrible for ratting and such. It does show 142 jumps in the last 24 hours, so I'm guessing people pass through it on their way elsewhere since it looks pipe-ish, but it's empty now. I kill some belt rats as I scan, as I can use the security bump. I'm at -6.3 and have been annoyed recently at that keeping me at a disadvantage with gate guns and out of travelling shallow highsec shortcuts.

Lets try hacking: Central Serpentis Sparking Transmitter. I fail hacking the first mainframe, and after failing the next datacom unit I decide either this one is too hard for me or I need to watch some videos on how to do hacking.  It feels like some things have changed since this first came out, and I'm not sure what. There are little numbers that appear in the nodes when you click on them, so there must be some data there I'm not getting.

I make up for it by shooting some rats in belts, though I was really hoping to find one of the special type of rat (like a Shadow Serpentis).  No luck though, and I come to realize that Wardens were a terrible choice of Sentry since their optimal is longer than my drone control range in this Stratios.

It's now an hour in and I certainly haven't been moving as fast as I could.  I'm pretty happy with trying out things here in null. Since this area of null looks like it could be good, I decide to duck back and get a better drone loadout to match the rats.

On my way, I get distracted by the fact that Lasleinur has a DED Security station. I've been meaning to trade tags for security status lately.  So, 48M ISK and many of my stored up tags later, I'm a reformed citizen, from -6.3 to -1.3.  Good enough to get me into highsec systems again.

Back to U65-CN, at least after I made myself some lunch

Lets try ratting. I refit for PVE and ran a small site (Serpentis Hidden Rally Point) while eating lunch.  Actually, it took longer to run the site than eat my lunch, hanging out at 50km or so with Gardes boosted by my Omnidirectional tuned for Optimal Range.  That's just inside one falloff, so then they charge towards optimal.  If I wanted to really rat I suppose I need to be ready to refit to three DDAs.  This is something I remember hating about rating like this.  It takes forever and just when you think you're done there is one more wave.  So eventually I said "forget this" and warped off.  Two people had come into the system and while I couldn't see them on d-scan, and there weren't any probes out, it could be easy enough for one of them to be approaching under cloak or in a recon.  So back to my safe, refit back for PvP and time to move on.

Except - there's a new signature showing.  I scan it down, and find it's a relic site.  Still in my PvP configuration, I head over to take a look at it.  As I arrive I hit d-scan and see core probes ... but I've already pulled mine.  The two people I'd seen in local earlier are gone and now there's a new person.  Hmm... what are the chances he'll want to come run this relic site and I can be waiting for him.  Still under cloak I slowboat to about 20km off of the cans and wait while I do other things around the house, peeking at the screen and hitting d-scan regularly to see if anything had changed. (Is this what Cloaky Bastard does?)

As I check back I see now there are combat probes out.  I double-check to make sure I didn't somehow bump something and lose my cloak (whew, all set).  But the combat probes tell me that that the local isn't happy with the intruder in space.  That works out okay since the family is just about home, so I move off to a safe and then safe-log.

No going home (yet): I didn't head back through the WHs to home station.  I expect that one of those WHs will be gone by the next time I log in, even if it's just later tonight.  Now that I've gotten my security status up, I feel better about wandering about without a way home.  It won't be that terribly hard to find a place to dock in lowsec or highsec and clone-jump back to Suj if there's something important I want to be a part of.  That wasn't really possible with my old security status.  Now as a Gallente FW member I'm not welcome in Amarr or Caldari space, so there is still a lot blocked off, but at least I can get into Gallente and Minmatar highsec.

The first session of the Stratios vacation hasn't resulted in any kills, and the ratting was not great from an ISK perspective (6.8M/tick) compared to what I hear of valuable null areas, but I'm enjoying the new space and trying to new things. There's no backup out here if things go wrong.

And maybe that's really part of the excitement of it, after all.

January 5, 2017

Tale of Two Battles: Pilot Experience

So apparently I didn't post a blog in all of December.  Fortunately I've got some ideas lined up that should help me keep this moving in the new year.  I wasn't inactive for December though, and indeed there were two major battles I was in that I think provide an interesting compare and contrast.  This won't be a battle report though, so if you want to know about The Battle of Vey or the Battle of Vlillirier then you should read those linked articles.  This is about the experience of being a pilot in these two very different scenarios, and what that tells me about what I enjoy in Eve.

The Battle of Vey (18 Dec)

The motivation for Vey was largely that of denial - CHAOS was an enemy and they were putting down a Keepstar.  My corp (RDRAW) formed up Machariels, fit with Arty but as usual carrying full refits.  We bridged in and found the local count was 3000 plus and TiDi was in full effect pretty much as soon as we landed, as I recall.  Now I've fought in battles where TiDi kicked in before, but generally in lowsec we don't see TiDi pinned to the 10% level for a full engagement.  We're more likely to see TiDi kick in right as people undock or take a gate, or carry some smaller slowdown.  As plenty of people have reported, this made the battle progress slowly.  Before the "in my time" vets jump in, I completely agree that slow is better than broken, so I'm not quibbling with the mechanic of TiDi.

The other aspect was that we were coordinated with other fleets, with separate comms bridged by the FCs.  Comms discipline was good, which also meant it was pretty quiet.  It seemed pretty clear that our target caller was relaying the target selection made by others, which made the whole thing feel even more distant.  We'd all go guns quiet, then be given a target to lock and shoot.  We were teetering on the edge of being able to break enemy Machariels, so I'd guess that part of the limited information we were being given was so that spies couldn't relay the target so that their logi could get reps on before our alpha landed.  On our side, our logi reported that we were losing ships before they could lock the friendly.  We ended up withdrawing in good order, so my Machariel made it back home and my killboard had some nice enemy battleships lined up (though no final blows, so no killmarks).  If I had been primaried then losing the ship would have meant an end to the night, as smaller ships weren't useful and reshipping from that distance wasn't feasible, particularly given TiDi.

The experience as a pilot was much what I hear of the nullsec battle experience.  You anchor up, you wait for a target call, then press F1, then stare either at the target's armor swing down or out the window into the black night wondering what you've gotten yourself into and when you'll get to bed.  At least it was Saturday night (my time).

The Battle of Vlillirier (22-23 Dec)

The motivation for Vlillirier was fighting our side in Factional Warfare.  CalMil has been on a strong push (see The Rise of the State) and GalMil has frankly been divided, which is pretty much a mirror of the warzone from when I first joined up.  Word went out that Vlillirier was under siege, so get into empty capsules and go help out.  (spoiler: guess what part of that I failed to do.)

I won't get into the basics of factional warfare, but in short we were running fleets of let's say 10-50 in and out of the FW plexes.  Ships were cheap (if you brought your own) and plentiful (handed out by FCs).  System control is often attrition warfare where if your opponent sets up in T2 ships (such as assault frigates) a good option is to have everyone reship into glass-cannon Catalysts, enter the plex, and blow up as many ships as you can before they can take you down.  Often this may even be a "free fire" situation because the FC can't call the targets faster than you can kill them.  Alternatively you may be in longer-range ships and you anchor up and follow targets like a more traditional Eve Online fleet.  Your fleet will often split up into smaller groups to span across multiple plexes with those pilots having responsibility to call back intel and (to a limited degree) decide to stand and fight or flee when enemies appear on d-scan.

The experience as a pilot is generally rapid-fire.  Our FC was generally light-hearted and chatty, with comms swinging between something closer to "battle comms" and fairly open with newbies asking how to use modules or work the overall mechanics.  Die, reship, and possibly even jump back into the same plex.  The pilot has to be paying attention, but the costs of not paying attention aren't that high in terms of ISK or being removed from the fight.

So which would you pick?

It seems obvious, doesn't it?  This is why many of us fans of lowsec have trouble understanding the appeal of the "big nullsec fight."  I know there is smaller-gang roaming in null, but the headlines are the big fights.  Now I'd also expect that many of the nullsec fans would speak to how their fights have meaning, particularly when you've been part of an alliance and its community for a long time.  I get that.  I just can't see staying up until 2am in the morning hitting F1 every five minutes when someone tells me to.

At the same time, there are also plenty of times when the FW battles can be F1 centric.  There's plenty of trying to hold a plex in your solo frigate when you see a dozen destroyers appear on d-scan and you have no choice but to warp off.  As someone who isn't very good at solo (as my recent killboard will attest) I can't say that I'm that variety of FW hero.  But it sure seems that there is a readier opportunity for content in lowsec in general and FW in specific.

That said, I've decided to give something a bit new a try, which I'll cover in coming blog posts...