Wow. It’s been a long time with no Ironfleet activity. But all these Ukrainian farmers with their tractors heisting abandoned (or in some cases, not-so-abandoned) Russian tanks have reminded me of Ironfleet at its combat-salvaging best.

That’s what they are calling this in my in-game channels, and I am inclined to agree:

View it full screen. It’s worth it.

My re-entry into EVE has been a quiet one. Although I’m in the game several days a week, for some weeks I wasn’t doing very much except poking around and trying to figure out my new niche in EVE for making ISK (and trouble) when by myself. My illustrious careers in can flipping and aggressive salvaging seem to be pretty much history now, post Crimewatch; these professions have not become impossible, but they are much more difficult and much less profitable than formerly. Worse yet, the proliferation of tools for safer mining and easier salvage have vastly reduced the numbers of EVE players who mine and salvage in unsafe ways. So it’s become a longer search for a more dangerous fight.

I’m not whining; I’m just looking for the next niche of equivalent fun-potential. At least there have been minor joys, like finding and grabbing a couple of nice ships while searching for abandoned POS pinatas. But a new avocation hasn’t yet presented itself. In time, it will.

Meanwhile, I came across this YouTube video about the joys of flying with NPSI (Not Purple, Shoot It) fleets. So I decided to do a bit of that to get my fingers retrained for combat. In the end I found a mellow black-ops hot-dropping operation with good hunter-killers and so I’ve been spending several hours at the end of the day chillin’ in a stealth bomber (or sometimes a Falcon) and occassionally dropping in to remind people that EVE is not best played solo. Although our HKs are catholic in their methods for finding prey, it amuses me that a frequent tactic is to look helpless or clueless, and then grab the would-be predators who swoop in. There’s no fun quite like turning the tables on some aggressive boyo who thought he was killing a helpless victim. The biter, bitten!

Last night I was lucky enough to get the final blow on a Hurricane pilot who was fit for PvP and (correctly) thought he’d found some, but who failed to anticipate the true nature of the PvP he had discovered:

2014.11.19 06:37:00
Victim: NetheranE
Corp: Collapsed Out
Alliance: Overload Everything
Faction: Unknown
Destroyed: Hurricane
System: Ostingele
Security: 0.2
Damage Taken: 16192

Destroyed items:

Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Navy Cap Booster 800, Qty: 12 (Cargo)
Medium Projectile Metastasis Adjuster I
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
Hobgoblin II (Drone Bay)
Faint Epsilon Warp Scrambler I
Synth Exile Booster (Cargo)
Medium Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I
Barrage M, Qty: 1000 (Cargo)
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 1040 (Cargo)
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 157
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 157
Nanite Repair Paste, Qty: 200 (Cargo)
Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Medium Armor Repairer II
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
Gyrostabilizer II
Hail M, Qty: 1000 (Cargo)
Nanite Repair Paste, Qty: 32

Dropped items:

Medium Ancillary Armor Repairer
Navy Cap Booster 800 (Cargo)
Navy Cap Booster 800
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 157
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II
Reactive Armor Hardener
Republic Fleet Phased Plasma M, Qty: 2000 (Cargo)
Synth Drop Booster (Cargo)
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 157
Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 157
Republic Fleet Fusion M, Qty: 157
Damage Control II
Republic Fleet EMP M, Qty: 1960 (Cargo)
220mm Vulcan AutoCannon II

And then I was stunned to discover that there are still people in EVE who haven’t learned that spilling butthurt tears is just a way to compound and deepen their loss:

[ 06:37:17 ] NetheranE > gooood
[ 06:37:27 ] NetheranE > #deathofsolopvp
[ 06:37:36 ] ColdHeart Hunter > Lolz bombers
[ 06:37:41 ] darkone040 > gf
[ 06:37:45 ] RiotRick > gf
[ 06:37:46 ] Khro Nology > gf
[ 06:37:49 ] Lexical Pedantry > gf
[ 06:37:49 ] Vanya Virpio > gf
[ 06:37:49 ] Leoric el Rey > gf
[ 06:37:50 ] NetheranE > “good faggotry”
[ 06:37:51 ] Adrian Trazani > gf
[ 06:37:51 ] Rafe Hollister > gf
[ 06:37:57 ] Marlenus > gf
[ 06:37:59 ] Leoric el Rey > thats rude
[ 06:38:02 ] Leoric el Rey > retorted
[ 06:38:09 ] NetheranE > retorted?
[ 06:38:11 ] NetheranE > alrighty then
[ 06:38:14 ] Marlenus > learn to spell
[ 06:38:16 ] NetheranE > keep being a douche bro
[ 06:38:26 ] Leoric el Rey > rude
[ 06:38:41 ] NetheranE > so you’re thin skinned and a bitch
[ 06:38:45 ] NetheranE > what else is new

I’m told that he went on in that butthurt way for quite some time after most of us had left local. I don’t have the logs, but it’s no loss, as NetheranE’s invective was distinctly weary and second-rate.

A final word about NPSI fleet action: if you haven’t tried it, it’s rather a lot of fun. If you are unclear what it’s all about, watch the video I linked above. I am quite enjoying Spectre Fleet (join the channel and mailing list of the same name in game for more info) but they are not the only NPSI operation out there. I’m finding that being in several NPSI channels is like being in a good alliance if you enjoy PvP roams and small-to-medium subcap fleet operations. At any given time when you log in, you can see what’s planned for the next couple of days, and pick from a buffet of options, fitting a good ship for whatever fleet sounds good and showing up at the appointed time in the appointed place for some no-nonsense fun. And yet it’s better than any alliance I’ve ever heard of, because it’s entirely free of pressure to participate and there’s no bullshit politics, at least not at the level visible to the grunts who X up every day.

I have been experimenting with siphons, which seem a natural fit for Ironfleet’s grand tradition of aggressive salvage.

Unfortunately, although I was clear on the fact that unattended POS guns would not shoot at my siphon, I didn’t give adequate consideration to the likelihood that they would kaboomski the ship I sent back to see if anything had been siphoned. Whoops, I guess I didn’t need that ship anyway. :( However it was a bummer to lose the 17mil worth of polymers that was in my cargo after I liberated it from somebody else’s siphon. [Waves at -BAD.]

Truth is, I never spent much time in range of POS guns before, although Jim visited those vicinities often, in heavy-iron 0.0 fleets with repping available. I had it in my head from the experiences of many long years ago that small ships didn’t face much risk from POS guns — a fact which I can now manifestly report is untrue. My fragile covops died instantly, the tanked and stabbed Maller I sent for the wreck couldn’t get out fast enough either.

So, help an old man out, would you? What’s a good ship and fit and strategy for emptying a siphon under POS guns? Or is there no way to do it except for looting the siphon with perfect timing and being in and out before the guns find the range?

All suggestions and advice gratefully received.

Update: I went back in a Velator, based on some bad web advice that POS guns take “forever” to lock small targets. My velator lasted 7 measured seconds on grid.

I did more research, found this:

Different POS modules have different lock speeds. A small gun locks pretty fast (given their 250mm scan res it would take ~8s to lock a frig), where medium guns (75mm SR, ~30s) and large guns (35mm SR, ~55s) lock very slow. Additionally, Warp Scrambler, Disruptor, and web batters have even lower scan res (30mm SR, taking a long time to lock even a battlecruiser (~30s).

This time I took notice of what killed me: Small faction guns. I think maybe some special effort went into making this particular tower hostile to siphoners.

After two years of neglect, a lot of links in the sidebar have gone stale. No surprise there. But the ones that still exist online, I’m mostly not deleting; instead, I’m slowly moving them into a “Stale Links” section. A lot of old friends and familiar voices will wind up in that category.

But as I am now proving for the half-dozenth time, it’s hard to remain truly gone from EVE. If one of the links in “Stale Links” is yours, and you start writing there again? Please let me know! Likewise if anybody notices a “Stale Link” that’s not so stale due to a recent history of updates, let me know so I can restore it to the regular link lists. Thank you all.

On May the 29th, 2006 (being eight years and roughly four months ago) I lost my first ship in PvP “combat” when I took a cruiser into lowsec for reasons that seemed sufficient. I think it may have been in Horkkisen, but memory is fuzzy and I no longer have the killmail. The bloody-handed pirates who did the deed? Them I remember; it was Swiftness and Omae Gaw’d.

History, they say, doesn’t really repeat itself; but sometimes it echoes. Last night I lost a ship for the first time in 1027 days, to a gang of The Trolls From Tunttaras. Here’s how it went down.

One of my time-killing hobbies in EVE is to run a series of high-sec belts in a fast ship, just to look for Dread Gurista pirates. You find them more often than you would think, and they have a chance to drop some really nice loot. It’s no way to spend a day, but one run through a system in a fast ship before bedtime makes a relaxing way to unwind, sometimes.

Since I’m refitting all my ships, I fitted up a deluxe ride for this project. It’s a Cerberus with rapid light missile launchers. This Cerb (probably the first one I ever bought) is so old it’s got Large rigs fitted; as you children may not remember, there was a time when there were just “rigs” and when the rig sizing was introduced, all the existing rigs were sized as “large” even if they were installed in a cruiser or frigate. You can’t fit a large rig in a cruiser today, but a pre-change cruiser can still have the ones it used to have, and many of my ships are like that. This Cerb is one of those. Rigged and fitted and crewed by me, the light missiles have a 117km range, which is conveniently close to the Cerb’s 118km lock range. I fitted it with an MWD and a long point and a modest shield tank, but mostly for missile gank damage against small and medium targets. It’s not intended for any serious PvP, but it might work for ganking any small flashy reds who accidentally found themselves on the same grid with me.

Ironfleet headquarters is in Eitu, so for the maiden voyage of the new fit I cruised the Eitu belts. Nothing found, as expected. Then, fueled by optimism and alcohol, I decided to jump over the wall into Horkkisen and check *those* belts, too.

This was not as crazy as it sounds. Absent a big gate camp, which is not usually present, I should have been able to get into the belts unmolested. Warping from belt to belt at random ranges between 50 and 100km, I was unlikely to land on a gank squad. They could chase me all day, but how likely were they to get within point range? The Cerb on MWD is a speedy thing; it won’t outrun a truly fast ship but I should have plenty of time and opportunity to disengage if I accidentally land on a grid with hostiles.

That was the theory. And it worked just fine. I actually think it’s a pretty good theory. But alcohol, remember? Eventually I found a Gurista battleship. I decided to nuke it from range, just for the lulz and sec-status improvement. That went smoothly.

And then the part that doesn’t make as much sense. Just the usual suspects in local, I haven’t seen a one of them, they are all slumbering in station, right? Of course I haven’t so much as opened my directional scanner to confirm this comfortable theory, but despite that, I not only loosed my salvage drones (new! shiny! like!) on the wreck, but I scooped in to loot the can.

That? That was stupid. If I’d stayed at range and kept moving, I’d have been fine. But instead, three pirates landed on my head. I never had a chance after that. Against a Vigilant, a Proteus, and an Arazu, there was nothing to be done, even if I’d been fit for a fight. One launcher full of light missiles barely scratched the armor tank on the Vigilant, and then it was over. They were kind enough to compliment my tank, after, and I told them the kill was nicely done. As indeed it was. Sure, I was overpowered, but that’s how to win at EVE; and they were nimble enough to put their gang on top of me with no warning just as soon as I stopped skipping. That, too, is how to win at EVE:

2014.09.20 03:49:00

Victim: Marlenus
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Unknown
Faction: Unknown
Destroyed: Cerberus
System: Horkkisen
Security: 0.4
Damage Taken: 9086

Involved parties:

Name: Who Man (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.40
Corp: The Trolls from Tunttaras
Alliance: Bad-Intentions
Faction: None
Ship: Vigilant
Weapon: Heavy Electron Blaster II
Damage Done: 5475

Name: Juggerr
Security: -0.4
Corp: The Trolls from Tunttaras
Alliance: Bad-Intentions
Faction: None
Ship: Arazu
Weapon: Arazu
Damage Done: 2074

Name: Guristas Destructor / Guristas
Damage Done: 984

Name: Broem
Security: -1.6
Corp: Spanked and Straddled
Alliance: Bad-Intentions
Faction: None
Ship: Proteus
Weapon: Proteus
Damage Done: 553

Destroyed items:

Damage Control II
Metal Scraps, Qty: 2 (Cargo)
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II
Antimatter Charge S, Qty: 100 (Cargo)
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II
Large Hydraulic Bay Thrusters I
Large Rocket Fuel Cache Partition I
Ballistic Control System II
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II
10MN Microwarpdrive II

Dropped items:

Ballistic Control System II
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I (Cargo)
Metal Scraps (Cargo)
Salvage Drone I, Qty: 3 (Drone Bay)
Salvage Drone I, Qty: 17 (Cargo)
Caldari Navy Scourge Light Missile, Qty: 1520 (Cargo)
Medium Shield Booster II
Warp Disruptor II
Mjolnir Cruise Missile, Qty: 100 (Cargo)
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II
Medium Peroxide Capacitor Power Cell (Cargo)
EM Ward Amplifier II
Ballistic Control System II
Shield Boost Amplifier II
Tripped Power Circuit, Qty: 4 (Cargo)
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II

A look at their killboard tells me they are resident(ish) in Horkkisen, and they do a lot of this sort of thing. There’s clearly been some combat-power-inflation in the past couple of years; when I left the game, that would have been a formidable and unusual gang to encounter in a backwater dead-end lowsec system.

On the bright side, I have three more Cerb hulls in the hangar, and a jammed-full fittings bin. So the sting of the loss is strictly emotional. Economically, I could do this every night for quite awhile. Rest assured, I do NOT plan to do that…

P.S. Just to test the nifty new partial-payout bounty system, I went ahead and put a minimum bounty on The Trolls. I’m 100% clear that it won’t bring them any extra fights — not unless it was a lot larger! — but it strikes me as a cheap way to receive notice of any misfortunes they may suffer in the near future.

Getting back into EVE after more than two years is an enormous logistical challenge. I found many dozens of my own ships scattered across a handful of widely-disparate locations I’ve worked out of; and Jim had caches all over known space that were asset-evac points from the many alliance moves and changes during his time in nullsec. Jim’s corp and alliances were always good about asset evacuation, but every time an alliance failed or there was a new war order, the drill was “pack your shit, we’ll jump it out to safety, proceed directly to [destination] in one ship and refit when you get there.” Jim says this happened at least a dozen times in the year or two he spent down there.

So what Jim and I found in his asset list was a bunch of stashes of fully-fitted, fully-rigged ships (mostly ratting and fleet battle cruisers, he generally sold the fleet battleships when he moved). When Jim wasn’t at war, he did a lot of ratting and a lot of salvaging for his alliance mates who didn’t care about salvage, and he’d use the proceeds to buy fittings (mostly high-meta or T2). So these stashes (which are mostly at staging areas one jump into lowsec or one jump away from these staging ares in highsec) also have a lot of valuable and expensive fittings, plus a smattering of the best rat loot and piles of salvage.

Normally these widely-distributed piles of assets would not be an issue; in the past when I’ve gone from EVE and returned, I just moved what I wanted and ignored the rest. But this time, there have been so many fitting changes, none of my ships will fly right. Every last one of them needs to be refitted. For convenience and best fitting availability, it makes sense to concentrate all the assets in one place, where the ships can be efficiently refitted using available fittings out of a single fitting hangar.

So that’s been a big job, with Orca and Bustard. It’s mostly done now. But I was astonished at just how much stuff we (especially Jim) had accumulated. In one staging area alone, Jim had more than six billion isk (using the in-game estimates) of ships and loot. The whole time Jim spent in nullsec, he felt poor and stressed for cash; but it turns out that’s because he kept dumping all his assets out to staging areas and starting over with nothing but the ISK in his wallet.

Anybody reading this and plotting to come for our iskies, don’t bother. Ironfleet retains its firm policy of flying the cheapest ships that will do the job, and we aren’t recruiting new members. Besides, billions in the low double digits isn’t real money in this game any more; there’s clearly been quite a bit of ISK inflation. Quite honestly I’m planning to siphon it away in plexes to pay for my game time in the foreseeable future; it’s not an especially fun way to spend it but real world, it’s the best use of this internet funny money for me.

So, I’m still in a process of figuring out two year’s worth of changes to the game, and consolidating my assets. One tricky part of that has been jump clones.

See, I still only have three of them. The thing is, I never missioned enough to have high standings at NPC stations with clone vats, and I was never willing to do corp-jumping shenanigans to get them. I got my first one from my old faction warfare fleet commander Steelcastles (may he rest in peace) back when Rorquals with clone vats were fairly new, and he undocked it one night (down in Syndicate) to hold a clone party for anybody who could make it. The other two I got when Jim Bridger was flying with a sov-holding alliance, and he got me some personal blue standings so I could run them some logistical errands that took me into a couple of their outposts with clone vats.

But in the here and now, when I woke up from my two year nap, one of my clones was safe in high sec, one of them was in some lowsec system I’ve never heard of (presumably moved there after being evicted from an outpost by a hostile new owner) and one of them was in an Intaki Commerce station deep in Syndicate NPC nullsec.

That one I wanted back in one piece, it has some nice implants.

So last night late when I thought things would be quiet, I got out of my ship in Reblier and hit the button to jump down to DP34-U. Things were quiet in Syndicate, and I hit two or three different stations for the parts I needed to build a Heron with a probe launcher and a prototype cloak. Paid too much, but that’s nullsec for you. In the second system I checked, I found a wormhole to deadly unknown space, and I took it. After poking around in there for quite awhile (and refreshing my faded memories of how to probe scan) I found another hole to merely “dangerous” unknown space, and took that. Then I parked for the night.

Resuming this evening, I quickly found a wormhole into “unknown” space, and from there, got a hole to high sec on my first try. Popped out in my trusty little Heron and where do you suppose I was? Of all places, Chesiette! Just one jump from where I left my ship. Is that an amazing and convenient coincidence, or what?

Jim’s in the same situation as me, only he had five jump clones and three of them were in now-hostile 0.0 outposts. He’s been jumping into them, selling or contracting all his local assets, and then just Leroy-Jenkinsing his way to the nearest dockable stations. (His clones don’t typically have many implants.) The first time he did this he took seven jumps to the nearest pirate nullsec station. He claims he saw six different Sabres along that route and none of them caught him. Either it was large gates all the way and he got really lucky, or those were the world’s worst Sabre pirates. Then today he jumped into a locked-down Executive Outcomes outpost down in 00TY-J and undocked in his newbie ship. He leroyed it all the way into Black Rise without ever seeing another soul in local, which is not the EVE either of us remember.

Whoa. Marlenus here, just back from a more than two-year vacation in the clone vats. New Eden is almost unrecognizable. The laws of have changed and everybody shoots at me now when I salvage those hazard-to-navigation jet cans. Lots of new boats, and none of my old boats work right, all kinds of the wrong gear duct-taped to the hull where there used to be open equipment bays. But change is good, right?

Jim Bridger is back, too, and he’s returned to Ironfleet after many years away. He has a complaint about the inevitable memory loss that results from too long a sleep in the vats. Specifically, he’d like to know WHY IN HELL he has a Thrasher in dock in Adacyne named “Return of Tubgirl.” Anybody?

In a trio of posts, CPP Diagoras has revealed the birth and death statistics for supercapitals in EVE in 2011. The population explosion (net births over deaths) is far worse than I had imagined:

Rixiu: How many titans and supercarriers are built per month?
CCP Diagoras: 2011 average was 137 supercarriers and 31 titans built per month, total of 1,646 supercarriers and 370 titans.
Della Monk: A titan every day? Goddamn. How often are they blown up?
CCP Diagoras: 86 titans destroyed in 2011, 269 supercarriers.
Rixiu: Damn. That’s insanely low. Supercap proliferation indeed. How many are there in the game total? Must be over 1000 titans by now and 2-3k supercarriers. That’s insane.
CCP Diagoras: Not counting ones that are in capital maintenance arrays (I wouldn’t expect that to be many) – 3,385 supercarriers and 847 titans.

Now, it’s worth remembering that supercaps were rebalanced near the end of 2011, with significant changes to them (and to logoffski mechanics in general) that may, it is to be hoped, increase their death rate. However, it’s unclear (to me; presumably the cap people know) how the changes affected their rates of manufacture and of being put into harm’s way, so the effect on net supercapital populations in 2012 is beyond my ability to predict.

Based on 2011 stats, though, we’re looking at a game population of supercarriers increasing by 1377 a year, and a game population of titans increasing by 284 a year. For determinedly subcap pilots like me, it’s a worrisome trend. Subcaps are enormously important in large support fleets when capitals are on the field, it’s true, but individual subcap pilots don’t get to have much impact in those battles. I worry that EVE may see the day when most subcap hulls now extant will be as irrelevant to important fights as most tier one frigates and cruisers are now. It doesn’t matter if the hull is useful (and most are, in the right role in the right situation); it only matters if the pilots around you think you’re not in the best hull for the job. And if the supercaps keep proliferating, we’re going to see the day (mark my words) that the minimum standard for a 0.0 fleet is going to be a Dreadnaught, which will be regarded as being about as disposable as a Drake is today.