Just a w-space update and data point: Today, for the first time since the patch that greatly reduced the number of sites (radar, ladar, gravimetric) spawning in w-space, the Greater Mars system is down to wormholes. There are two wormholes present in the system, and no other cosmic signatures whatsoever.

Last night some of the boys from TEARS wanted to put together a light fleet to go hunting into some wormholes. I showed up in a new-model stealth bomber, which (since the last patch) now shoots torpedoes (range-enhanced to about 60-80 klicks depending on skills and rigs) and fits a covert ops cloak. A bunch of bonuses have also been tweaked, with the idea being to focus the ship as a stealthy small ship with a DPS role against battleship-class vessels. (This being dramatically different from the platform’s historic role as an anti-frigate ship and its more recent neither-fish-nor-fowl role since the speed and missile adjustments impacted its ability to instapop smaller and faster targets.)

This was my first chance to fly one in a combat situation, so I spent much of the day tweaking up a fitting I could live with, and also scanning for a few wormholes we could hunt in later. When the fleet finally came together, it was very small; the composition varied a bit as players came and went, but for most of the evening we had a covert ops ship, we had an electronic attack frigate, we had me in the bomber, we had a heavy interdictor, and we had one or two recon cruisers. So we were set for tackle and ECM, but were light on DPS for the number of ships present. (My understanding is that a couple more bomber pilots were supposed to join us, but didn’t make it for various reasons.)

The first wormhole we entered was quite busy, and we ended up with a lot of traffic hitting our bubble in just a few minutes. Some got away, but we took down two different battleships, including a Dominix with godly armor repping who really erred badly; if he’d sent his Ogre IIs after me, it might have been a sad story. But he didn’t, and he died. I was quite pleased with the damage contribution that the bomber brought to those kills.

During this flight my fleetmates kept saying over voice “Why doesn’t he put those drones on the stealth bomber?” Which I didn’t consider a friendly suggestion at all! But, I was thinking the same thing.

There followed a long wander through a chain of three or four wormhole systems, but we found them all to be uninhabited. By the time we worked our way back to our starting location, we were near to calling the evening over, and we were already diminished by the departure of a couple of our most sleepy pilots.

Before we wrapped up, though, we scattered to check some of our previously-found and previously-empty wormholes. Warping around cloaked in mine, I found a Drake on the directional scanner, and using the directional scanner, I had him fairly well localized by the time the rest of the guys arrived in the adjacent k-space system. It was puzzling, though, because the Drake was not fighting sleepers (at least, there were no wrecks visible on d-scan) and was not probing (no probes on d-scan anywhere in system that I could reach, anyway). So, what was he doing there? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Somewhere in here there was a quick debate about whether we had with our remaining ships enough firepower to kill a heavily tanked Drake, which (to my gratification) ended when somebody said “No worries, if we get him locked down we can torp him to death.”

So I warped back to the wormhole, jumped out, and vectored the rest of the fleet to my wormhole. The covert ops jumped in and went hunting, working from my vague “somewhere in the vicinity of Planet I” report.

Everybody with a cloak jumped in, cloaked up, and took up a position on the wormhole. The covert ops got probes on the target, then cursed and said the target had vanished. So he had the interdictor jump in and bubble up the wormhole, in case the Drake was en route to the exit.

We waited, but no Drake.

Eventually one of our guys went to the most distant planet, where he saw the Drake on scan. Just as he reported the Drake vanishing from his scan, the Drake showed up on our wormhole at the edge of the bubble.

(An aside here: it’s my understanding that a bubble dropped by a heavy interdictor is supposed to be visible, like the ones you see around anchored bubble generators, or like a force field. But last night, I could not see our bubble, even though everyone else could. Is this an overview setting that I’ve got wrong, or some sort of graphics glitch? Obviously I’m not pleased at the concept of invisible dictor bubbles; all suggestions gratefully received.)

And then, like a switch, the Drake vanished. The wretch had cloaked!

There was much cursing, and our faster movers of course went blazing toward his last known location. By some miracle (or perhaps the Drake pilot panicked and dropped cloak in an attempt to warp) he quickly reappeared, and just as quickly, locked down.

I was gratified to see my torp volleys hitting him for 2,000 and more points per volley; and he blew up with respectable dispatch:

2009.04.29 06:45:00

Victim: Slo BurN
Corp: Brutor tribe
Alliance: NONE
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Drake
System: J115738
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 27366

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.3
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Manticore
Weapon: Caldari Navy Juggernaut Torpedo
Damage Done: 19836

Name: GreenYoshi
Security: 0.6
Corp: Suddenly Ninjas
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Broadsword
Weapon: Broadsword
Damage Done: 5640

Name: Herr Wilkus
Security: 0.6
Corp: Aggressive Salvage Services LLC
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Rapier
Weapon: Caldari Navy Thunderbolt Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 1890

Name: Velocity Prime
Security: -0.9
Corp: Suddenly Ninjas
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Buzzard
Weapon: Phased Weapon Navigation Array Generation Extron
Damage Done: 0

Destroyed items:

Scourge Heavy Missile, Qty: 306 (Cargo)
Widowmaker Heavy Missile, Qty: 448 (Cargo)
Prototype Cloaking Device I
Thunderbolt Heavy Missile, Qty: 78
Scourge Heavy Missile, Qty: 79
Expanded Probe Launcher I
Heavy Missile Launcher II, Qty: 4
Ballistic Control System II
Large Shield Extender II, Qty: 2
Thunderbolt Heavy Missile, Qty: 326 (Cargo)
Core Defence Field Purger I

Dropped items:

Shield Power Relay I, Qty: 2
Havoc Heavy Missile, Qty: 773 (Cargo)
Thunderbolt Heavy Missile, Qty: 39
Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 7
Compulsive Multispectral ECM I
Salvager I
Heavy Missile Launcher II
Ballistic Control System II
Shield Recharger II, Qty: 2
Large Shield Extender II
Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 4 (Cargo)

And with that, we called it an evening. I think all told we bagged two battleships, the Drake, two pods, and one pod ransom, with all loot and proceeds going into the TEARS war chest.

As for myself, I confirmed that the new-model stealth bomber remains an effective and fun ship to fly. It’s still paper thin, just as it always was; and it now flies against bigger ships at closer ranges, so overall peril has gone up. But it still brings the pain, and with the covert ops cloak capability, the pilot has an enormous amount of discretion about which fights to participate in. I also found that it serves as a functional auxiliary scout, without in any way threatening the primacy of the covert ops ships in their famous scouting role.

Update: Velocity Prime’s account of the same operation is here.

I’m set up like this. The Empress of Greater Mars has her own corporation. She’s the one who launched the POS. She’s set Ironfleet and TEARS standings to positive (+5 if I remember properly).

The guns, they do not shoot at me. If they had, I would have noticed.

Kahega from TEARS came to visit one time; I was nervous, but the guns, they did not shoot at him either. Also good.

I have a no-skills alt in Greater Mars, who is a member of State War Academy. The Empress has set his standings (in the eyes of her and her corp) to +10.

When he’s got the POS password set, the guns do not shoot at him, either. But…

When he logs in at the POS, obviously the password is not set, and so (when he logs back in) he is ejected from the force field at a high rate of speed. And, about the time he stops zooming, the guns begin firing on whatever ship he’s in. I’ve tested this many times.

The guns are set to fire at anybody whose standings are less than positive one (+1.0), by ticking the top checkbox. They are also set to fire at war targets. All other check-boxes are unchecked.

I wondered whether the lack of standings between The Empress and State War Academy was causing the unwanted shooting, so I asked The Empress to (temporarily) set SWA standings to +5. She did, and (mindful that standings settings can take time to be acknowledged) I waited about half an hour before logging in the alt.

Kaboom. Fortunately I brought extra shuttles for testing purposes.

Anybody know why the POS guns hate my alt?

Obviously I can work around this by logging him out somewhere that’s not the POS, and then always setting the password before he warps into POS gun range. But, inevitably, I’ll forget.

Any ideas or suggestions?

Last night, for the first time since I started working in Greater Mars, a Magnetometric site spawned, one called “Forgotten Perimeter Gateway.” I’m sad to say that it proved something of a disappointment.

I went in, in the usual way, in my Drake. The initial spawn was four cruisers; after I killed the second one, I got a spawn of a battleship and four frigates. Foolishly, I concentrated on the battleship, and when it died, I got another spawn consisting of two more battleships and two more frigates.

So, by now I’m out of shield and out of cap and there are ten Sleepers on the field: 2 BS, 2 cruisers, 6 frigs. They had me surrounded and outnumbered … it was time to warp away, rest, and recover.

Back, at range. Picked off the two cruisers before the damage got out of hand. Was just killing the second one when I noticed an Imicus and four Sisters core probes on my directional scan. They are in my w-space, scannin’ my dudez!

Warp away, rest, recover, ask the Empress of Greater Mars to scan down the Imicus. She tries, reports back that there are no hostiles in system. What, they left already?

Back to the mag site. Come out of warp and there’s the Imicus, 40 klicks away. (Empress, you are fired as my backup scanning minion.)

Targeted the Imicus, or tried to; but of course this is a Drake, and he’s long gone before the lock is obtained. Nobody else on directional scan, I gamble on finishing off the rest of the frigates.

Now we are down to 2 sleeper battleships, which is a substantial but not impossible nut to crack for my Drake. Assuming no enemies land on my head…

First, back to the POS, swap into my Buzzard, sweep the system carefully and competently. No ships on scan, no hostile probes out, maybe he really did leave the system this time.

Back into the Drake, back to the Mag site. Launch all the drones to increase DPS and soak some up too, start chewing on the first battleship. Keep weather eye on d-scanner. First battleship pops just before my shields go, I can tank the last one, we are done with Sleepers. Will I be unmolested long enough to do the archeology, or will my Imicus friend come back with reinforcements?

In the event, nobody came back. But the loot was a disappointment. In addition to the usual ship droppings, there were eight archeology cans, from which I got 9 ancient relics to be used (if I understand it right) in reverse engineering the blueprint copies for making Tech III subsystems. They were:

3x Wrecked Armor Nanobot
1x Wrecked Electromechanical Component
1x Wrecked Power Cores
4x Wrecked Weapon Subroutines

Unfortunately, my spies in Jita tell me these are none of them worth as much as a million ISK on the current market. Given that the wrecked hull section I found in a Radar site sold for 300 million, I was hoping that a Mag site would have some valuable stuff too. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about TIII production to understand where the bottlenecks are. I’m also uncertain how developed the market is yet; if production chains are still gearing up, it might be that items are in surplus temporarily until demand builds. At any rate, I’m not selling these for trivial prices; I’ll hang on to them until the market is fully developed, for better or worse.

So there I was, cruising through the cosmos in my Drake, a little bit of Caldari steel jazz blowing on my pod speakers, quaffing Quafe Ultra with a shot of Gurista Dark Rum and feeling not a care in the world. I’d swept Greater Mars for hostiles and, finding none, hopped in the Drake to blow up some Sleepers at a cosmic anomaly, one of two in the system. Mellow fun, no stress, just mindless carebear kaboomski time, communing with my heavy missles. Fly, my pretties, fly!

That was the plan. However, this IS w-space. One keeps one’s eyes on the sensors.

Thus it was only mostly unexpected when a casual sweep with my directional scanner showed me three sleeper wrecks and a Ferox.

I expected to see him when I lumbered out of warp, but he wasn’t at my destination. So, I figured he must be at the other anomaly.

I wanted to be sure, though, because you don’t get a lot of second chances when you’re tackling with a Drake. So, back I went to the Greater Mars headquarters POS, where I hopped in my Buzzard for a quick scout.

First I popped four probes at 32 AU range, overlapping where I thought he’d be. Sure enough, I got a hit. So I went all the way down to 1AU and moved the probe indicators to cover the suspected location. One fast scan, 100% hit, instantly mashed the probe return button. Bookmarked the Ferox and hopped back in the Drake. Launched that bad boy at my bookmark like a dumptruck full of bricks down a steep icy hill.

Dropped out of warp about eleven klicks from the Ferox. Locked him up. I’d activated my warp disruptor and missile launchers before I came out of warp, but for some reason they deactivated instead of firing when lock was complete, I’m not sure why. So he got about five free seconds while I waited for my modules to activate, before I noticed I wasn’t shooting. Then I said a dirty word and hit the buttons again.

The extra GTFO time I gave him apparently wasn’t enough.

He was engaged with a Sleeper battleship and two cruisers, and was down at maybe 20% shields when I got my lock. He didn’t last long, even though all three Sleepers started shooting at me as soon as my first volley hit the Ferox:

2009.04.22 04:13:00

Victim: Cristal Dawn
Corp: BongBrothers Inc.
Alliance: NONE
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Ferox
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 37385

Involved parties:

Name: Awakened Escort / Unknown
Damage Done: 22271

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.3
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Alliance: Tear Extraction And Reclamation Service
Faction: NONE
Ship: Drake
Weapon: Scourge Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 15114

Destroyed items:

Scourge Heavy Missile, Qty: 46 (Cargo)
Plutonium Charge M, Qty: 251 (Cargo)
Acolyte I (Drone Bay)
Sleeper Data Library, Qty: 4 (Cargo)
Iridium Charge M, Qty: 351 (Cargo)
Widowmaker Heavy Missile, Qty: 25
Large Shield Extender I
Heavy Missile Launcher I, Qty: 3
Uranium Charge M, Qty: 24 (Cargo)
Scourge Heavy Missile, Qty: 26
Neural Network Analyzer, Qty: 2 (Cargo)
Antimatter Charge M, Qty: 143 (Cargo)
Medium Neutron Saturation Injector I
250mm ‘Scout’ I Accelerator Cannon
V-M15 Braced Multispectral Shield Matrix
Havoc Heavy Missile, Qty: 70 (Cargo)
Iron Charge M, Qty: 392 (Cargo)
Guristas Iron Charge M, Qty: 120 (Cargo)
Uranium Charge M, Qty: 64

Dropped items:

Power Diagnostic System I
800mm Reinforced Crystalline Carbonide Plates I
Gravimetric Backup Array I
Prototype Cloaking Device I
Large Shield Extender I
Shield Recharger I
Widowmaker Heavy Missile, Qty: 291 (Cargo)
Neural Network Analyzer, Qty: 2 (Cargo)
Antimatter Charge M, Qty: 30
Tungsten Charge M, Qty: 534 (Cargo)
200mm Railgun I
Thorium Charge M, Qty: 442 (Cargo)
Ballistic Control System I
Havoc Heavy Missile, Qty: 55
‘Malkuth’ Heavy Missile Launcher I
Thunderbolt Heavy Missile, Qty: 120 (Cargo)
Warrior I, Qty: 2 (Drone Bay)
Lead Charge M, Qty: 367 (Cargo)

The Sleepers were hitting me hard, so I didn’t even try to catch his pod. He was cool about it, making an “easy come, easy go” sort of remark in local before (presumably) hitting the wormhole back towards home.

As you can see, it was a cheaply fit Ferox, so not too much of a loss for him. I enjoyed salvaging his wrecks, after I finished off the anomaly for him.

Greater Mars was quiet today, so after some desultory probing in a couple of adjacent w-systems, I decided to take a holiday at home, visiting my home base and fittings hangar to play with my stealth bombers and my ECM ships, since they all need refitting after the recent patch.

Well, after a long day of that, I decided to do some high-sec probing, since I’ve been in w-space pretty much constantly since Apocrypha released. I was curious to see how the new probing system would work for finding salvage opportunities.

Pretty soon I picked up the spoor of a whole swarm of drones and battleships at a moon, which is an odd thing to see in high sec. So went to have a look-see. What I found was about a dozen heavy ships from the Habitat Against Humanity alliance, with members from The IMorral Majority [BADD] and Squirrel Horde [NUTSS]. They appeared to be having a long and happy POS-stomping party; there was a Dread Gurista tower going down and a whole lot of shooting going on.

What caught my eye, though, were a number of Giant Secure Cans scattered about; several of the battleships were snuggled up to them, and they had names like “Antimatter L”.

Now, it’s unfortunate that ever since Apocrypha gave secure cans their new graphics, it’s no longer possible to tell whether a can is anchored or not unless you have functional color vision (which I don’t). But there was such a chaos of ships and drones, I thought it highly unlikely that anybody took the time to anchor their ammo cans. So, off I went for a cargo vessel.

I chose the humble Badger — not even a Badger II — because I thought there was some chance somebody might be willing to suicide me in a fit of pique, and I wanted to deny them any satisfaction for any such berserker insanity. And besides, it was funnier that way.

First load, I got two Giant Secure Cans, with no sign that anybody saw me. By the second load, the tower was down, and they noticed when I scooped can #3. Suddenly I had two battleships targeting me.

You go, boys! I love a good Concord show. Meanwhile, I steered toward can #4. Unfortunately, it was in the process of being scooped by Klendaxor in a Bustard. (He was a BADD member until yesterday, so it looks like he dropped corp so he could supply today’s operation with impunity from any tower defenders.)

Back at base, I checked out the contents of my cans. One was empty — no surprise since I came along near the end of the tower shooting. But the others? One of them had twenty five thousand large anti-matter rounds in it, which is a cool three million ISK in anybody’s book. The other was even better: 16,000 Bane Rage torpedoes, worth about eight million ISK on the current market.

There having been a lot of loose unclaimed drones floating around, I went back in a fast scooping frigate. This attracted a lot of blinky yellow boxes from assorted battleships, but they were cleaning up drones rapidly, and all I got was a single Hammerhead II.

Finally, reasoning that they might have taken this tower down in order to put their own up, I went back in my trusty Prowler and prowled for a while. But in the interim, they’d already anchored a small tower, and (though I watched carefully while they onlined it and got the forcefield up, writing this blog post in the meanwhile) they didn’t show any inclination to drop anything else for an ambitious salvager to scoop.

In the last couple of weeks there’s been a substantial decline in visitors to Greater Mars. I figure, the w-space novelty has worn off, the deadliness has been discovered, and the loot (especially the T3 parts) hasn’t turned out to be excessively valuable, especially before widespread T3 production gets ramped up.

Still, I like it here. And there’s not really a lot of extra resources in Greater Mars to share with tourists. Which means, I tend to treat tourists as just one more salvageable resource. And if they aren’t quite ready for salvaging, well… that’s what heavy missiles are for, right?

2009.04.16 19:29:00

Victim: Devon Cys
Corp: Stone Shadow Syndicate
Alliance: Sylph Alliance
Faction: NONE
Destroyed: Imicus
System: J235321
Security: 0.0
Damage Taken: 573

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: 573

Destroyed items:

Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 4
Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 3 (Cargo)

Dropped items:

Core Probe Launcher I
Core Scanner Probe I, Qty: 154 (Cargo)
Deep Space Scanner Probe I, Qty: 3 (Cargo)

Today’s pilgrim showed up a planet while I was testing the new scanning features. He stayed there while I:

1) I scanned him down to 100%;
2) Warped to him to observe him;
3) Bookmarked him;
4) Returned to the POS operated by the Empress of Greater Mars;
5) Swapped into a combat ship;
6) Warped back;
7) Locked him with a cruiser;
8) Blew him to hell.

I realize it’s tough to keep moving while you scan when you’re in a non-cloaking astrometrics frigate, but jeebers, this ain’t Empire! It’s not safe to park at a planet.

Update: I didn’t notice until later, but after Devon warped away in his pod, he wrote one word in local: “ass”. Of course, I couldn’t say whether he was describing himself or trying to smack-talk me.

Although I enjoyed my time in faction warfare, especially including a lot of inconclusive fleet action that taught me valuable blobbing skills, this comment in a Scrapheap Challenge thread struck me as a pretty accurate description of a lot of the time I spent, complete with recommended soundtrack:

Having chased both Caldari and Gallente militias around an awful lot, it seems that caldari go to Old Mans Star and wave their cocks about until it seems like Gallente are about to fight and then they turn and run back to Nourv. Then Gallente go to Tama and do the epeen wave until the Caldari get it together to chase them back to Villore. This back and forth should take place to Benny Hill music. Stragglers die and sometime when both militia fuck up they actually end up fighting, as if by accident.

I remember weekends when we repeated that sequence three or four times between lunch and bedtime…

The super-secret corporate intelligence bureau working out of a sub-basement at Ironfleet corporate headquarters has secured this exclusive photograph, which (we are reliably informed) depicts a top military planner in Goonswarm, planning the next Goon invasion:

Goonswarm planning an invasion

My EVE time has always fluctuated, and right now it’s on a downturn; so I’m not spending as much time in Greater Mars as I was. This, of course, means there’s more chance for interesting sites to respawn.

Tonight there were two new ladar sites to check out — and mine gas from, though my gas mining inclinations are slight. What caught my attention, though, is that these ladar sites had more robust sleeper defenses than used to spawn in sites (with the same name) in this system. One site had a spawn of six frigates, which is one frigate more than I’ve seen at a gas site previously; the other site actually had four of the Sirius gun towers. Ladar sites this size have, in the past, had the same defenses as gravimetic sites in this system; typically either five frigates or a cruiser plus three frigates.

I haven’t really seen enough ladar sites to know for sure that there’s been a change, but I’m wondering whether there might not have been a server-side tweak to randomize sleeper defenses just a smidge. That’s a change I’d be 100% behind; it’s bothered me ever since Apocrypha that a site with a given name would always have the same defenses, and that when you killed the defending sleepers, they would always have exactly the same loot and drop predictable salvage from the same small salvage table. I really think there should be more variability.

Anybody else see any unexpected Sleeper spawns in the last couple of days?