Sunday, March 8, 2015

Wormhole PVP: Part 1

Sven has many opened ended goals in progress, and many large goals uncompleted. However, it is time to try something relatively new—wormholes. I've been active in wormholes in the past, both to PVP and since the introduction of null type relic/data sites to  explore there as well, but not as a dedicated play style. The play style itself is very close to my heart as an explorer and wandering PVPer, not to mention the fact that 5 of my top 10 ships by total kills over the last 3.5 years are cloaky / steathly type ships—the Stratios, the Astero, the Tengu, the Helios (yes, before the SOE ships were released I flew a battle Helios with much delight), and the Confessor (I include it on this list because of its ability to use combat probes and enter frigate sized wormholes etc). However, I've never done dedicated wormhole PVP, nor have I lived in a wormhole for any other purpose. While I do not plan to be a “full timer” wormhole player at this point or likely at any point—I will still keep up solo PVP, exploration, and trading, in k-space—I have a number of goals for learning about and living in wormholes. Here is the rough plan:

Part 1: Live in a C1 wormhole with a HS static primarily to PVP.

Part 2: Live in a frigate-sized shattered wormhole primarily to PVP.

Part 3: Set up a POS in a wormhole with my alts and maybe some friends for drug manufacturing, PVE, and PVP.

There's also a little problem called being busy. Working from home more, but longer hours and with more at stake, means I can run EVE, but, for any minute of the day, should probably not be playing EVE during that minute. As a result, I am logged on, but can (/should) only be active for brief periods. That type of schedule suits wormhole hunting well: I can stay cloaked, checking dscan and probing new signatures occasionally, and switch to brief “active” playing when I find a potential target.

Searching and Researching

I've always had an interest in wormhole life, and follow many blogs that focus on the playstyle. I've read the classic wormhole blog “Tiger Ears” for over three years now, a blog that has sadly gone a bit quiet, and one of my favorite new EVE video producers is Chance Ravinne, increasingly well-known for his torpedo delivery videos (and yes, I voted for him for the CSM). My research and interest in wormhole PVP, mechanics, and living substantially increased with the introduction of Thera, the shattered wormholes, and the wormhole-heavy lore over the past few months.

I started some focused research a week before I finally move into a hole. I scan for wormholes from HS, LS, and via Thera, studying them: who lives there? Is it easy to find empty holes (lacking players, starbases, POCOs, etc)? How active are they? I research holes via public killboards. I search for Control Tower losses in wormholes, trying to piece together a picture of who gets evicted, and why. Since I am going to begin wormhole life in a lowly C1, the main question I have at first are: Why do evictions happen in C1 wormholes? Are they common, or do they happen only in special circumstances? And are there many empty C1 (et al.) wormholes?

Researching all control tower losses in wormhole for the past few months, I find that POS destruction is actually fairly common in C1 and other lower class wormholes, but almost all of the POS losses in C1 holes occur in C1 holes with a HS static, and the POS is usually removed by a group of 3-10 players in Ishtars or attack battlecruisers. I only find one destruction of a total POS in a C1 with a LS static, and it paints a confusing picture: A large tower is destroyed in a C1, and on the killmail are a dread, a carrier, and a rorqual. These capitals must have been built in in the hole. Were they built solely for the purpose of removing someone from a lowly C1 with a LS static? This intrigues me, so I contact the CEO of the corp that did the removal for more information. The reply is brief, but the story is this: They were aiding friends who were being forced out of the hole. That at least suggests they did not build the capitals solely for the purpose of evicting someone. Though, given how strange wormhole groups can be, I wouldn't be surprised if it has happened, and I notice on other killmails in C1 holes that some groups do build dreads or carriers in C1 holes to remove POCOs and, presumably, to defend their own dominance in the hole. So far, I am finding the research into wormholes—and the people who live there—fascinating, maybe more so than even living there.

I make an interesting find: J154449, a class 3 with a NS static. 10 planets, all interbus customs offices. 3 dead sticks, all 3 from small and inactive corporations. The PVP history is sparse. Strangely, though, there is a mobile depot here. From a pilot in Phoebe Freeport Republic. Looking over the pilot's killboard, it appears that he flies a Stratios into lower class wormholes and perhaps day trips. This mobile depot could have been a refitting station left behind on one of his excursions. I put it into reinforce, but don't plan on waiting out the 48 hour timer in this dead wormhole. It is eerie, in a way, finding a wormhole that is completely abandoned. I'm sure there's someone out there who would love to have this wormhole, but I move on. Later, when I find a few more empty wormholes, I post the information on some pubic boards hoping that someone can make use of them. 

I find a few C1 wormholes with a NS static, and am surprised at who lives in some. It looks like many of the major null sec alliances have their own wormhole corporations and "outpost" POSes in systems with NS connections. This makes sense: null sec fleets increasingly use wormhole chains to PVP across the map, so it would be natural for some of these groups to maintain a fairly constant presence in some wormhole systems.  This might make lower end wormholes with null sec statics a bit more active than they were in the past.

Part 1

Day 1

Finally, however, I make my find--and it is not Sven who makes it, but my gas mining and fleet booster alt who will live in the wormhole with me. It is a C1 with no effect and with a HS static, one set of POS modules (guns, etc.) with no control tower, and then one remaining control tower: J142617. 

Even on the day I find it, it looks like the wormhole has had an interesting recent PVP history. Earlier that day (Feb 16th) it appears someone got ambushed while moving out of the hole, losing a blockade runner and a DST. The hunters leave without destroying the SMA, which I take care later in the day though it is unfortunately empty. Sven moves in that day, and so begins my week hunting in this wormhole. The wormhole has apparently not been frequented recently, as it has almost a dozen signatures and almost two dozen anomalies. My alt does the gas sites and soon notices a drake on scan. At this point Sven is still in a confessor, and it makes short work of the drake who must not have been paying much attention to dscan.

Day 2

Day 1 bleeds into day 2, and I am still clearing the gas sites. Sven is in the process of switching to his Stratios and so is briefly out of the wormhole, but in the meantime I get lucky on a dscan and see scan probes—within 5AU—flash on the scan, then off. Fortuitous because, at this point, I was preoccupied by doing my 2014 taxes and checking dscan had become less urgent. Given how quick and deliberately the probes scan come and go, I know my little venture is being hunted. I align. I even talk in local, like a new player would, breaking the first rule of wormhole life. I go back to gassing, and some time passes before a pilgrim de-cloaks 21km away. His slow reaction time tells me he did not intend to de-cloak (the gas field is rather large) and I am warping away before he even begins to lock. I finish the site later with no interruption, but absence of evidence in a wormhole does not make for evidence of absence. Sven returns in a more suitable ship, the gas clouds are finished, and I am about to log for the night when I see another drake. The stratios dispatches it quickly. 

(This drake pilot later becomes my gas mining alt's friend when I meet him in another wormhole later and we share the gas sites.)

The first two days in the wormhole go well. I am 50m richer from two gas sites—not that it matters—and have two battlecrusier kills to my name, along with one 150m pod, as well as two structures I popped which were left over from a recent tenet.

However, the wormhole has many connections at the moment—too many. The static to high sec is there, but there is also two connections to null, two to other unstable wormholes, and one to a deadly wormhole. There are a few dozen POS modules left over from a past control tower I plan to take down--housekeeping you might say--but tonight is not a good night for it.

Day 3

The third day in J142617 brings a new high sec connection, this time to Maira in Solitude, a home to many explorers, some of whom may want to use the wormhole for logistics or profit. I poke around Solitude briefly and then return to the shadows of the wormhole. The many wandering wormhole connections from yesterday are gone, leaving us with only one way in or out. That gives a sense of safety, but there's little way of knowing whether the wormhole is being inhabited by stealthy stowaways attracted to the wormhole's recent activity (besides, of course, myself). 

During the workday, three of the null sec type relic sites have spawned and it isn't long before a Buzzard enters the hole and begins scanning. Here I'm met with one of the disadvantages of being confined to a single ship in this wormhole. I attempt to capture the explorer while he is running one of the relic sites, but my 5+ second lock time against this target gives him plenty of time to warp away. I return to the HS connection and watch him leave. Later in the day, however, an Astero is not so lucky or aware. I catch him as he finishes a relic site. I see his capsule hanging around the system. Talking to the pilot, I learn he forgot to bookmark the wormhole exist. I could leave him to his fate, or try to send him home in a more forceful way, but instead I form a fleet with the pilot and tell him I am at the wormhole exit if he would like to warp to my location. He is trusting—or desperate—enough to take up my offer, and makes his way out of the wormhole. 

The highlight of the day, however, came earlier. The hole is active, with a procurer entering and then exiting via Geckos before he could even fill up his ore hold, followed by a newer explorer who sits just off a customs office to scan (I have a nice chat with him after--helpful, I hope). After, scanner probes again pop up and work through the signatures. Then, a tengu appears on dcsan, at one of the relic sites with sleepers. I warp in a range and find a good spot to intercept the explorer. The tengu pilot is looting wrecks one by one, so I position myself in between a remaining wreck. Looking at his ship, I see HAMs, so I expect to take some damage (as opposed to fighting a HML fit tengu). Though I have only been in the wormhole for a few days, I am already worried about traps--a PVP fit HAM tengu could be more than I can handle if he has friends waiting to uncloak. Risk aversion be damned, though, and it turns out to be an easy 850m isk kill. I exchange kind words with the pilot, talk about fittings and wormhole survival (it appears this was one of the first wormhole visits for the tengu) and watch the capsule exit back to HS. (The only downside is that this is the only fight I had in the wormhole I did not get on fraps.)

Day 4

A new day brings new connections. Living in a wormhole, out of one's own ship, gives the feeling of being a passenger on a massive vessel. Each day the vessel brings it passengers to new locations in space, bringing with it the potential for activity, or complete silence. Day 4, now in the middle of the work week, brings silence. A covert ops ship or two scans the few sites in the hole, leaving when it becomes apparent none are the NS, non-sleeper variety. In the evening I begin the tedious--and dangerous--work of destroying old POS guns and batteries. I get a certain satisfaction out of "cleaning" up the wormhole. As I am about to log out, I notice something that gives me slight chills. The control tower from the previous residents--the ones who were ambushed right before I moved in--has dissipated. Of course, I haven't been logged in 23/7--far from it--so they easily could have logged into the system, grabbed the tower, and left via the HS exit, but it leaves me with an unsettled feeling that I have not actually been alone all this time after all--not as alone as I thought, anyway. Especially unsettling because I just spent the last hour or so in space--aligned, or course--destroying POS modules from another, long-gone group. The ghosts of residents past have a way of waking up again it seems.

Day 5

I am too busy to play much today, but it is as just as well because the wormhole is quiet. With a HS connection to one of the less popular starter systems, no visitors (or hunters) seem to even notice our presence. In the evening, though, a C5 connection appears, and as I am about to log after a brief scanning session, I see a loki and nemesis flash on and off dscan. Never alone, it would seem.

Day 6

It's the weekend now, and we have a connection to two fairly active HS systems as well as a C5 (which, from my experiences the previous day, I know to be wary of). Overnight, it appears that someone ran the null sec type relic/data sites in the hole, but throughout the day a few more spawn.

Like flies to ripe fruit, explorers seem to enter the wormhole whenever null sec relic or data sites spawn. Another exploration frigate comes into the wormhole, and I have another failed attempt at catching it. This time, it was a very unfortunate warp in. I warp to a structure at 10km; however, I pass through another structure en route on grid, and it seems to decloak me. The target is gone. So far, that makes 2 exploration frigates killed out of 5 that have entered. Worse yet, it means that the relic site will now despawn, leaving no attractive exploration sites in the wormhole for those looking for the NS type relic/data sites. 

Day 7

The final day in the wormhole, a Sunday, marks 1 week hunting in this C1. I can already tell a major difference of activity in wormholes on week days compared to weekends. If I were living in a wormhole primarily to PVP, I would focus on playing on the weekends; if I were living in one primarily to PVE, I would play on the week days. The activity--even the site respawns--is painfully slow during the week, but on the weekend, and with a good HS connection, activity is constant. My last day in the wormhole does not disappoint. I remove the remaining POS modules in the morning, leaving the wormhole almost completely empty--no control towers, no POS mods. Only the POCOs remain. Later in the day, a Stratios enters. I am, at this point, nervous about my presence in the wormhole. The longer I stay and PVP in this single wormhole, the more likely the killboards will signal my activity, and the sooner it is that someone sets a trap for me. A trap is inevitable.

The trap does not come today, at least not for me. I dispatch the Stratios with the almighty Gecko squadron.

My final engagement ends up being by far the best. Two battlecruisers enter--a prophecy and a harbinger--and start farming the sleeper anomalies, looting and salvaging. They are fairly new players, and have already lost similar ships in wormholes (making useful intel). I make my move as they are finishing salvaging a combat site. I am surprised by the reaction time of the prophecy, as he lands a warp disruptor on me almost as soon as I land a scram on him. The mere fact that it is a warp disruptor and not a scram, however, means that escape remains possible for me, should I need it, and it signals a certain inexperience. Under the pressure of both battlecruisers my tank is a bit stressed. I am running a dual cap booster, dual armor rep, neuting Stratios, and while my medium ancillary armor rep still has charges I am tanking fine, but if I do not kill the prophecy before the charges run out I will start to bleed structure. I have neuts on the harbinger as well, as his guns are much more cap dependent, but the prophecy dies before my last set of nanite charges runs out, and I swap to the harbinger, comfortably tanking him until he meets the same end.

I again have some nice words with the pilots, who seem fairly hardened by such PVP experiences. If they would have had tech 2 drones and weapons, the fight would have been a lot closer, and for that reason I wish they would have.

Sven's time in the wormhole is up. Even busier with work in the coming week, I won't have time to hunt in the wormhole. A week of activity, and I have downed 4 BCs, a tengu, a stratios, an astero, a procurer, a few pods, an imicus, and a bunch of POS modules. 28 kills total. Not bad for a first week living and hunting in a wormhole, I think. I am pleased, at the very least, and most of all I learned a huge amount.


My alt stays in, though, just to see what happens to J142617. A few days after Sven leaves, a small corporation moves in--only 3 members, potentially all of them alts. I put the characters on watch lists--they appear to play at much different times. However, I immediately notice that they are able to farm all of the content in the wormhole playing very little in total. Once they move in, there are never any anomalies and only wormhole signatures, but they seem to run the sites so fast and at off-hours so I never end up seeing these new residents active. This is a reminder that, for purposes of PVE, a C1 wormhole barely provides enough content for a single person, and is only really suitable for a single person who plays a few days out of the week. Any more active than that, and one will quickly out grow the wormhole. After a week of no signatures but wormholes--not even gas sites--and no sign of the pilots (not even on the killboards--Sven remains the last active PVPer in the system) my alt finally moves out as well. I say my goodbyes to J142617--I've grown quite attached in such a short time, if only because of the ample supply of targets the system has provided me in just a week. I know I will see the system again--listed on the connections to Thera or popping up at random when I am hunting in new wormholes. Until then J142617: o7


  1. Wormhole hunting is one of my favourite parts of game, just as you said, due to being busy and playing passively. I use tackle proteus and rr domi combo to gank my victims. I see solo stratios works well, but if you got alts, they give huge advantage.

  2. Nice write-up! This article got definitely more tension than last posts of tigers ears and invading your hole blogs.

    Three months away from my home WH and living in matar lowsec I was missing that old silence and local chat absence.
    From time to time my folks and me were having a WH trip if there was one near Egmar. 3 rr domis, 200kk isk/hr in c3's. Though nobody even attempted to shoot us, while it was a bland pew invitation.
    It's also amusing to see most of c2,c3 and c4 we enter to be precisely bookmarked from our former wormhole times.

  3. Very nice! I have been roaming around in a proteus for quite a few days now, but I still have yet to find a target of any sort. I don't get to play on weekends often though, so that might be a reason.