Found a ship in the “unknown” w-space next door to Greater Mars. It was a Magnate (Amarr astrometrics frigate) named “Life Raft” and belonging to No Salvation [NO SA] corp in the Blackguard Coalition . It was drifting, abandoned, at a moon; its only fittings, a core probe launcher and ten core probes.

I’ve considered doing this myself — bringing a spare probing ship and dropping it at a safe so that if my ship meets misadventure at Sleeper hands, I don’t have to pod myself to escape from the wormhole system. It’s a reasonable tactic, made less reasonable by the fact that, with current probing tech, there’s no good way to hide these things.

It’s handsome little frigate. I think I’ll keep it.

It has always been my habit to complete a full survey of a system I was inhabiting. In a busy empire mission-running system, this meant probing out all the abandoned ships, collecting any concentrations of lost drones, establishing probing bookmarks so that all the exploration areas (within 4AU of a planet) could be covered by dropping one flight of probes, that sort of thing.

In wormhole space, it means knowing what your cosmic signatures are, and where they are. Since they change frequently, this is a challenge, and requires constant maintenance.

In Greater Mars, I finally achieved this nirvana this morning. Right now, I know where everything in the system is (unless there are cosmic signatures so faint they don’t reach the .05 probe detection threshold, which I very much doubt but is always possible I suppose).

At the moment I’ve got, and have bookmarks for, 13 cosmic signatures. They break down as follows:

3x wormholes (one to high sec, about to expire; one to 0.0, which I’m about to nip into for a lookaround; and one to unknown space, which I need to check quickly for abandoned ships and such.)

9x gravimetric signatures (hidden asteroid belts). These include one “isolated core deposit” which has tasty roids like gneiss and dark ochre. (There was a small spodumon roid in there yesterday, but I went and got a mining barge.)

1x ladar (gas mining).

I also have one Cosmic Anomaly currently, which I’ll pound flat in a few minutes with my Drake.

This is, overall, a low count; there were more things (especially anomalies) when I first moved into Greater Mars. The operating theory is that they respawn, like all exploration content, across a constellation or region or set of systems; so that as the sites and anomalies I’ve used up have despawned, they have respawned in other wormhole systems where (potentially) nobody has encountered them. This will result, naturally enough, in an incentive for explorers to seek out new and undiscovered systems, rather than camping (as I have been) in the same one for days and weeks on end.

Sites do despawn, eventually, even if I leave them alone. All of these sites seem to have a natural lifespan of, roughly speaking, several days.

What’s fun?

There’s been less wormhole whining than I expected, to be honest; probably because people are having so much fun. But I still see some folks who are profoundly missing the point.

Take this guy, for instance. He can probe pretty well in a Covert Ops, so he finds a wormhole, goes in, finds a site he thinks he can kill, and goes back for his Drake. Being no fool, he logs in an alt who can also fly a covert ops ship, to sit in the hole with him.

He does his thing in the Drake, great success. It’s time to go home.

Ohnoes, his wormhole is gone, and there are PEOPLE in the system with him! So, sensibly enough, he logs his drake and starts probing for a new exit on his alt prober. I’ll let him pick up the story from there:

THERE WERE SO MANY SITES IN THIS WH, i couldn’t find a WH. i found OVER 9000 grav sites, ladar, mag, camps, ambushes, etc… but no wormholes. this went on for almost 90 minutes.

scan, pinpoint, scan, pinpoint, for a very long time. i was getting pretty annoyed, as this doesn’t seem fun to me. but i’m not the type to give up, so i just keep plugging away, site after site after site.

finally i find an exit. to 0.3 space up in black rise (near Tama).

So, he spends an hour and half probing with a low-skilled prober before finding his exit. This makes him annoyed, doesn’t seem fun to him.

And that’s where he misses the point.

The wormhole probing mechanic is designed to be a challenge. If it were easy, fast, or guaranteed, there’d be no challenge. That aspect of wormhole risk would be gone.

Risk and challenge are what create a sense of triumph when you overcome them; without them, the game would be pointless.

I, myself, would have enjoyed those ninety minutes; but I do understand folks who think it’s a little much. However, the point is not that you’re supposed to enjoy getting lost, though many do; it’s that getting loss is a necessary possibility to enhance your pleasure and relief when you don’t get lost.

Consider an analogy to getting podded. Does anybody enjoy getting podded? I very much doubt it. But how many of us would enjoy EVE as much as we do if getting podded weren’t a possibility?

You don’t see people saying “I got podded and got pretty mad, it didn’t seem fun to me.” They’d be laughed out of space. Duh — podding is the consequence for losing. And just like that, getting lost (or what that old mountain man used to call “getting temporarily mislaid”) in w-space is the consequence of not “winning” a particular exploration experience. W-space wouldn’t be half so much fun without it.

Caught another gas miner at “my” gas cloud tonight. He was in a T2-fitted Stabber with four gas harvesters high, not a gun to be seen. I think he had a covert ops bird somewhere in the system “watching out” for him, but if so, they failed:

2009.03.19 02:53:00
Victim: iEatBlackPanthers
Corp: b.b.k
Alliance: Fidelas Constans
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Stabber
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 3706

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 3706

Destroyed items:

Cap Recharger II
Expanded Cargohold II
Gas Cloud Harvester I, Qty: 3

Dropped items:

Invulnerability Field I
Cap Recharger II
Expanded Cargohold II, Qty: 2
Gas Cloud Harvester I

They also failed to hit warp in their pod, which is odd considering that my little Caracal is not the fastest-locking boat in space:

2009.03.19 02:54:00

Victim: iEatBlackPanthers
Corp: b.b.k
Alliance: Fidelas Constans
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Capsule
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 415

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 415

And best of all, he was mining into a jet can, so I’m now richer by 1500 units of Fullerite-C70.

If the gas miners keep coming to Greater Mars, I’m going to have to make a special trip to Jita, just to sell all the gas and excess gas harvesters!

The fight itself was nothing special; due to good recon, I came out of warp less than a dozen klicks away from him, put a warp disruptor on him and blew him away in six volleys. He was awake enough that he was trying to speed out of my disruptor range, but he didn’t have a speed advantage , so it didn’t work. The combat was short, sweet, and one-sided, just the way I like ’em.

Update: Just after I finished posting the above, I turned my attention back to my other screen, where I was sitting, still in my Caracal, at the POS administrative headquarters of Greater Mars.

Guess who came sliding out of warp in a newbie ship? Your friend and mine, iEatBlackPanthers.

There are guns on this POS. This is news to you and it was news to him. They blew him out of space.

Pretty much simultaneously, I initiated warp out to the wreck from where I was, and a Curse came sliding out of warp in the same place as the wreck. About the time I landed on the wreck, a Myrmidon came out of warp, also.

In my imagination, Panthers-boy left the wormhole long enough to dock and get a newbie ship, then came back with friends to get some revenge. I can picture a prober saying “I’ve got him, warping fleet now!” followed by the yelling “It’s a POS! They have guns!” as Panthersboy went kaboom. I’d say all three were separated by about the amount of time you’d expect for ships of three different warp-speed-and-agility classes, if they were ending a long warp that was initiated for all of them at the same time.

In the event, the Curse executed a very quick exit. I got a lock on the Myrm and on Panthers-boy’s pod, and put a couple of volleys into the battlecruiser; apparently the POS guns were helping, because he want to low armor with shocking speed, before he lumbered back into warp himself.

The pod was still there, even though I didn’t think to warp scramble it:

2009.03.19 03:36:00

Victim: iEatBlackPanthers
Corp: b.b.k
Alliance: Fidelas Constans
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Capsule
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 439

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 439

Revenge expedition: failed.

I notice there were 42 minutes between those two poddings. Do you suppose, in all the excitement of rounding up a little revenge fleet, our man remembered to buy a new clone?

For as long as I’ve been salvaging in EVE, and especially using probes to find lost and abandoned ships, I’ve found mysterious ships (usually shuttles and frigates) floating in space named “S”. Just the letter S, nothing more.

It struck me as an oddly lazy ship name, and I found these things by the dozens, back when the first wave of probe improvements first made it easy to find small lost items. They were in every system, often four or five of them — in systems all over New Eden. I always wondered what long-forgotten conspiracy was responsible for naming shuttles “S” and leaving them scattered about the spaceways.

Now that I’m operating out of a POS, the mystery is resolved. I went home to Empire today in a shuttle, to bring back a hauler load of POS fuel and ammo. I also put a new, packaged shuttle in my cargo hold, for next time. When I got back to the POS, I ejected all the stuff, so that the Empress of Greater Mars could stow it in her corporate hangar array.

And what to my wondering eye should appear, when I ejected the shuttle? A shuttle named … “S”. Of course I’ve jettisoned small ships from my holds before, but I never chanced to notice their name before. Sure enough, when you jettison a packaged ship, it gets assembled in the jettison tube and the cargo handling crew, lacking better instructions, programs an “S” into the transponder as it goes out.

There’s that mystery solved.

So, today I noticed a wormhole in my space that opened up in Caldari high security, a horrid little backwater system I’d never heard of, with three people in local. “Aha!” I thought. “That’s why I haven’t seen anybody lately.”

So, I took the opportunity to go and get a Drake battlecruiser from my hangar. It’s a slow and brutal beast, all heavy missiles and tank. But, I thought it might be handy against Sleepers.

Once I got it home to Greater Mars (for it seems that’s what the POS proprietress and de facto Empress of Local Space has named the wormhole system I’ve been enjoying) I jumped in my Buzzard covert ops ship and went looking for something to kill.

Spent some time narrowing down weak cosmic signatures until I found a Radar site — something I’ve not found in this system hitherto. A cautious reconnoiter revealed five Sleeper cruisers sitting at something called an Unsecured Perimeter Comms Relay. If that’s unsecured, I’d hate to see secured. Somebody has a sense of humor.

Still, it looked like work for the Drake.

And such work! The cruisers died fairly easily. The next spawn was a battleship and two frigates. After killing the frigates, I engaged the battleship; and it, I was able to kill, but it was a close race between his tank and mine. I needed to launch my drones to take some of the heat off me, and I lost one of them in the process. But the Sleeper battleship died.

Then, of course, TWO battleships spawned, and two more frigates.

By the time I killed the frigates, both battleships were in range and giving my poor Drake the pounding of its life. She was holding together — barely — but my cap was dropping quickly. I chewed a bunch of the armor off of the first Sleeper battleship before I started taking armor hits my own self, which in a Drake is a clear message from God that it’s time to go. So, I went.

Back at the POS, I begged a bit of armor rep from a friendly Osprey, had a cup of coffee, borrowed a replacement drone, and considered my options. Finally I decided to load up Navy missiles and go finish the job — or at least see if there would be an impossible “Wave Four” spawn.

Fortunately, wave three was the last wave. I was able to polish off one battleship before long, and the damage from the other was tankable (barely) with what I had left. When the second battleship died, the killing was over.

All this took a lot of time, and if I hadn’t had a friendly back at the POS doing the odd system scan to assure me that I wasn’t in any danger of interruption from hostile pod pilots, my stress level would have been extreme.

And then, it was time for looting! And codebreaking!

First the loot and salvage, from 3x battleships, 5x cruisers, and 4x frigates:

19x Reinforced Metal Scraps
14x Neural Network Analyzer
31x Sleeper Data Library
01x Defensive Control Node
30x Electromechanical Hull Sheeting
01x Emergent Combat Analyzer
02x Emergent Combat Intelligence
03x Fused Nanomechanical Engines
02x Heuristic Selfassemblers
12x Modified Fluid Router
29x Powdered C-540
01x Thermoelectric Catalysts

There were a total of 8 spawn containers requiring a Codebreaker to access, the contents of which were:

2x R.A.M. Hybrid Technology
6x Datacore – Defensive Subsystems Engineering
1x Datacore – Electronic Subsystems Engineering
4x Datacore – Engineering Subsystems Engineering
1x Datacore – Offensive Subsystems Engineering

Of course I have no idea what any of this will be worth once the T3 manufactuaries spin up to speed.

After this morning’s stomping of the hapless gas-mining destroyer, I had to go out and do non-EVE things in the real world. (Believe it or not, I don’t get to play EVE 24/7 — pout!)

When I came back, guess what I found at the same gas cloud?

Yup, my gas miners were back “in force” — three battle cruisers, the destroyer again, and a Bestower industrial. According to my scans, there was nobody else (except of course the always-possible cloakers) in the system, so back I went in my Caracal of Doom.

The Bestower blew up in two volleys. I guess it wasn’t aligned, because I was shooting from a full hundred clicks out:

2009.03.16 22:36:00

Victim: Serleanka Darkwater
Corp: Atlantean Corporation
Alliance: NONE
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Bestower
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 1968

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 1968

Destroyed items:

Expanded Cargohold II, Qty: 4
Dual Light Pulse Laser I
Small Tractor Beam I
Multifrequency S
Fullerite-C60, Qty: 2172 (Cargo)

Dropped items:

Fullerite-C84, Qty: 342 (Cargo)

And ouch! Look how much gas blew up. :(

Next up, the Catalyst destroyer. More gas harvesters for me? And why is it still here? Did we learn nothing from this morning’s kaboom experience?

2009.03.16 22:37:00

Victim: Dag Tackar
Corp: Atlantean Corporation
Alliance: NONE
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Catalyst
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 2346

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 2346

Destroyed items:

Gas Cloud Harvester I
Type-D Altered SS Expanded Cargo

Dropped items:

Gas Cloud Harvester I
ML-3 Amphilotite Mining Probe
Fullerite-C84, Qty: 12 (Cargo)
Fullerite-C60 (Cargo)

Yup! Another harvester!

That was three volleys. Two of the battle cruisers are just milling about, still, but the third, a Ferox, looks like he’s trying to close the range. He’s no sniper, that’s for sure, because he’s 75 klicks out and still hasn’t locked me. I motor away from him and begin lobbing missiles.

Nineteen volleys later, he warped away in deep armor, without ever having target locked me or gotten closer than about 65 klicks.

Somewhere during this exchange, the other two battle cruisers warped off; and I guess I expected that somebody in system was trying to get a warp in point on my little cruiser so they could come back and stomp on my head. But, it didn’t happen. An associate of mine had time to come in a small fast salvager, salvage the wrecks, loot the mods, look at the gas volume, go and get a hauler, and come back for the gas. Meanwhile, I orbited at range to provide a bit of protection. The only person who came back was Serleanka Darkwater, the Bestower pilot, who jumped in and out in her pod about three times to observe the cleanup process.

Twenty minutes later, when I checked, I was alone in the system as far as my probes could tell me.

I am now officially LOVING w-space and the Apocrypha expansion. This was aggressive salvage in the best Ironfleet tradition, and the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Of course, I don’t think for a moment that targets this fat will be found in w-space for long; these people are acting like they are mining in Empire belts under the full protection of Concord. That’s got to stop, as the carnage mounts up. But I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.

Here in w-space, where (as you probably assumed from my last post) I have at least temporary access to a rather well-equipped POS, I’ve been having a lot of fun doing “casual” gaming, sitting at the POS like a spider at the center of a web. Working at other projects on my other screen, from time to time I can scan “my” system to see what ships might be in it. And then, if I feel like it, I can scan them down and — if they seem tasty — land on their head with a pile of missiles.

This morning, my scans showed me a destroyer, an assault frigate, and a battlecruiser, all at the same spot. So I hopped in my trusty Caracal of Doom (yeah, I know, but it’s a very cheap platform on a per-tube basis for delivery of heavy missiles) and went to see where the party was.

I found the battlecruiser and the assault frig at a gas mining site, although the destroyer was nowhere visible. So, I started launching on the assault frig, but being at a great distance, he was able to warp out in armor. Transferring my missile affections to the battlecruiser, he, too, decided to go elsewhere.

Fun, but not profitable.

Returning to the center of my web, I resumed scanning. The battlecruiser and the assault frigate eventually left the system, but the destroyer seemed to be warping around. A bit of time passed.

I scanned again. There’s the destroyer — alone? — at the gas site.

About ninety seconds later, heavy missiles began landing on his head. He never had a chance:

2009.03.16 18:53:00

Victim: Dag Tackar
Corp: Atlantean Corporation
Alliance: NONE
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Catalyst
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 2562

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 2562

Destroyed items:

Monopropellant I Hydrazine Boosters
Salvager I
Fullerite-C84, Qty: 54 (Cargo)

Dropped items:

Gas Cloud Harvester I
Small ‘Accommodation’ Vestment Reconstructer I
Small Shield Extender I
Photonic CPU Enhancer I
Salvager I
Small Tractor Beam I, Qty: 2
Hornet I (Drone Bay)

I was particularly pleased to see the gas harvester, as those are currently on my shopping list; it was nice to have one delivered to w-space for me. The tractor beams, too, are nice loot to get, although I’m not sure what use they are for a gas-miner, or why they were fitted.

For the time being, Ironfleet is operating in w-space. You’ll understand if the details are kept a little bit obscure for reasons of operational security, but we’re concentrated in a specific system and interested in defending our interests there from casual intruders.

So, the new routine is, when I log in, the first thing to do is scan the system for unwelcome vessels. This morning, that turned me up a Brutix. Closer investigation showed the Brutix to be at a new wormhole to highsec. Oddly, the Brutix was about 100km from the wormhole and powering away (slowly) in a random direction. AFK?

Now, as it happens, for logistical reasons there was nobody but me handy to deal with this terrible crisis, and I didn’t have any serious combat ship that would normally be able to kill a Brutix in a heads-up fight. The pilot, Ceist Mashal of Jericho Industries [JRCO], North Domain Defense Forces [Honor], is a 2007 character, so this could be a properly-fitted, well-piloted encounter.

On the other hand, he could be AFK, or distracted with his face glued to the scanning interface. And I do have a Sleeper-killing caracal. What’s the worst that could happen, he warps off?

So, I warp on him at about 70 clicks out, and commence firing volleys of heavy missiles. He targets me back (auto targetback? Promising!) but never launches a drone or fires a gun. A dozen volleys later (with no evidence he ever turned on a tank module of any kind) he’s in a pod. Two more volleys and the pod is toast.

The wreck was way over there, and I’m in a slow-ass boat, so I went to swap ships. And when I came back, the wreck had been looted. Given my frequent scanning, this implies a cloaker. Was he AFK and two-boxing his covert ops ship? I’m not sure. But the killmails look good:

2009.03.14 18:43:00

Victim: Ceist Mashal
Corp: Jericho Industries
Alliance: North Domain Defense Forces
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Brutix
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 13195

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 13195

Destroyed items:

Core Probe Launcher I
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Armor Explosive Hardener II
Valkyrie II (Drone Bay)
Javelin S, Qty: 40
Core Scanner Probe I
Hammerhead II, Qty: 2 (Drone Bay)
Javelin S, Qty: 80 (Cargo)
150mm Railgun II, Qty: 3
Cap Recharger II, Qty: 2
Infiltrator II (Drone Bay)
Salvager I
Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 40 (Cargo)

Dropped items:

Armor Explosive Hardener II
Javelin S, Qty: 160
Armor EM Hardener II
Hammerhead II (Drone Bay)
150mm Railgun II, Qty: 2
Cap Recharger II, Qty: 2
Antimatter Charge S, Qty: 5000 (Cargo)
Medium Armor Repairer II
Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 8 (Cargo)

2009.03.14 18:44:00

Victim: Ceist Mashal
Corp: Jericho Industries
Alliance: North Domain Defense Forces
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Capsule
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 447

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Caracal
Weapon: Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 447

Update: Later in the day I spoke with a Taranis pilot who was flying top gun for a squadron of battleships farming sleeper rats. He told me his covert ops alt watched this kill, looted the wreck when I left, and gave the loot back to Ceist Mashal.

After that last post I thought I’d better post about the extreme fun I had in an alliance op yesterday. We took a bunch of cruiser hulls (number varied, but 7-8 gives you the idea) and me in a blockade runner to carry the ammo and loot) into a wormhole down in Grincanne. While we were looking around, we encountered and destroyed (popped and podded) a couple of players in battlecruisers. Then we went two jumps deeper into deep wormhole space (this took a lot of time and probing).

From there, we found a wormhole that led to “unknown space” (that is to say, less deep and closer to high sec). Our FC in the Covert Ops jumped in there and scanned down a trio of ratting battleships. By that point we were down to five cruisers (including one Blackbird) and the gang was not enthusiastic. But the FC, rightly, pointed out that they were (a) not fit to kill cruisers and (b) not expecting “Ninjas! Thousands of Them!” or the Spanish Inquisition either one. Then he waited until one battleship warped off somewhere, before warping the gang (not including my toothless Blockade Runner) down on their hapless heads.

It was a slaughter, and not by our side — the battleships couldn’t track well enough to hit us and were heavily jammed by our Blackbird. The third battleship came back, took one look, and fled again, while we chewed the first two down to rubble.

Their pods got away, but we saw where they went, which made probing their exit wormhole fast. We popped out in Annaro just before the server crash, with about 1,000 cubic meters of loot worth about 17 million ISK. (Most of the ships killed were cheap t1 fits, but there were two high-meta lasers that were worth in excess of five mill each.)

I don’t think we lost anybody and it seemed like a good time was had by all. Some of the combat pilots aren’t happy with the time spent probing for wormholes, but the longest we spent was about half an hour. Many hands (and core probe launchers) make light work, as they say.

I realize that if I posted this story on the forums I’d get a “so you went roaming in a cruiser gang and got a few kills, what’s the big deal” troll. Tough. You gotta remember, we mostly operate alone or in small groups, in high sec space. A successful roaming gang is pretty good work for us. Add in the wormhole factor and the “killing ships bigger than us” factor, and it made for a very nice day.