Jan 5 2015

Day 3005: Nullsec trek

The stealth run

The itch to put Alea’s Nemesis‘ Interdiction Nullifier to the test prompted Aeon to dig up his old nullsec traveling plans again. He had not used the ship in quite a while, so the first step was to entirely review its fitting and adjust it to the task at hand. When Aeon was satisfied with the results, the next few days were spent doing trial runs to reawaken all the old reflexes that would be needed again after a longer stay in high security space. This included remembering how not panic, how to warp safely between gates and avoid bubbles (best to keep good practices even with the nullifier), how to gather intel on the activity in the systems on the route, how to evade pursuit and how not to panic (best to remember that twice).

The route itself was straightforward: a well used access pipeline into nullsec, and then a route through nullsec that would lead by a few notable locations in the same area (the wreck of Titan Steve being the main event), then exit through another pipeline at the end. To make the journey slightly safer, I waited for a day with a low pilot count on the server, combined with a usually quiet hour. Loreena scouted the access pipeline, which was comfortably quiet, then Aeon was on his way. He knew his choice of ship would make it more likely that he would be chased, but he’s stubborn like that. As I hoped, the systems on Aeon’s route were largely unpopulated, and the few people that were there did not pursue. When he reached the Steve system, there was a small fleet of about 8 people there. A quick investigation showed they were nowhere near the memorial itself, and surprisingly they kept to themselves while Aeon took some screenshots. Still, not one to play with fire longer than absolutely necessary, he did not linger. The only real encounter was a duo of interceptors that came to investigate while Aeon was visiting an abandoned caldari station. Luckily Aeon had already taken his screenshots and had cloaked up again. Loreena later argued that it was foolish to even uncloak to take a screenshot, but I can relate. No point in taking all these risks if you can’t even show off a little bit.

The next few sytems were empty, so Aeon could take in the impressive sight of a cluster of shattered planets without being disturbed at all. He stayed there for a cup of tea and two cookies, then made his way to the exit pipeline. Two systems there had bubbles and some apparently quite well organized gate camps, but luckily they were made to catch people coming in, not going out. Aeon did not bring anything back from this trip except the screenshots, but it was a first step in completing a plan that he made many years ago. It felt good to see him dust off old dreams like that, and I do not think he slacked his thirst for nullsec adventuring just yet. There are quite a number of locations still on his list, so Alea’s Nemesis is now safely parked in a high security space station until preparations for the next trek are done.

Of course all this would not have been possible at home with the satellite internet connection and its high latency: I had to do it in the office so I would be able to react in time to any situations that may arise. Being able to compare the latency to the regular DSL line in the office, I realized how much of a difference it can make: speed tests on sat vs office showed latencies of 719ms vs 31ms. Almost a full second delay when sending a command can very easily get you killed, even in a covert ops frigate. This made me wonder how high latency has to be to become a problem, since PvP fights are usually very short-lived, and small command delays can have big consequences.

On a sidenote™:

I mentioned a while ago that I started a third (still undisclosed) character, which I wanted to use for experimenting with playstyles I had not tried so far. Plans were mainly to try out nullsec life in a big alliance and factional warfare. As all good plans, they failed utterly 🙂 Nullsec life turned out to be as evasive as I expected it to be, not because of nullsec itself (which is pretty cool) but because of the way I play EVE. I cannot use voice comms because I either play semi-afk in the office where that is just not done, or at home where I have to be attentive to things outside of the game. Despite quite some efforts I ended up being pretty useless to the corp I joined, and that is just too frustrating. After that fiasco, I did not even try factional warfare anymore. I know for a fact by now that I do not have the time to learn how to PvP properly, and I did not want to join up just to be useless yet again.

Still, after all this I did not regret starting a third character. Aeon and Loreena are both so tied up in their own roles that there are many things I will not do with them anymore. I realize that sounds a bit sad, but it really isn’t. I like where they both are after slowly growing into their respective roles, and I definitely want them to stay there. This third character is more of a sandbox to try out things (except unlawful stuff, that is still where I draw the line) without having to worry about anything, and once I am done exploring I should not have any trouble to let go of it (I hope). Any new things I learn I can then translate back to Aeon and Loreena. Right now the highlight is that I can fly a Vargur with it, which actually managed to make Aeon envious. I must say, that is one hell of a ship. Aeon never trained projectiles far enough to use the tech II variants, and seeing what the ship delivers I think Aeon will want to train up a bit after all.

Mastery levels and skills

Speaking of the Vargur: While training up for it, I found the ship mastery levels actually quite helpful – up to level IV. Level V is just silly. After three years more or less beelining for the Vargur, my third character has reached mastery level IV of the ship. According to the ingame previsions, it would take another 360+ days for mastery level V – I believe that to be a tad excessive. Aeon himself has reached mastery level V of the Armageddon a few months back for some weird reason, and has just recently unlocked quite a few more battleships by training the Armor Layering skill to V. In his case it is utterly useless, since he does not use any armor plates. Then again, why bother unlocking mastery levels at all? As an EVE veteran, I know I do not need some of those skills… Except that I have to admit seeing those golden badges in ISIS feels good. I could hit myself for falling into the trap, but I cannot help it 😛


An unexpected side effect of starting the third character was testdriving some roleplaying corps and channels. Eventually I settled on the Intergalactic Summit channel, wich has some very good content at times. If you feel inspired and want to discuss current game events or even simply EVE-related things, it is often enough to post something to spark a conversation. With the current sleeper activity, there were some really good conversations going on. I had a lot of fun participating there, which gave me some insights into a community I wanted to have a look at for a long time. I think what I enjoyed even more than some good conversation though was that everyone was polite. No smacktalk, no trolling… very uncharacteristic for EVE.

Eye Candy!

This time in double screen format, since I had spread the EVE window over two screens. It’s a thoroughly weird format, since it was one 16:9 ratio screen and one 16:10, so I had to resize accordingly. Still, it was fun to have such a large view for once. It gives the game a whole new depth. New item for the 2015 wishlist: a second screen with a matching aspect ratio.

The Wreck Of Titan Steve
Shattered Planets
Abandoned Caldari Outpost
Inspecting The Abadoned Station
Ringed Planet Flyby
Classic EVE Space Scenery
Legion Exploration
Starting The Nullsec Trek

Dec 7 2014

The Ships of EVE 2014

Back in 2010, I built a first Ships of EVE poster. With the new version of my EVE ships database tool, I was able to make an updated version of the poster.

It’s quite interesting to compare the two posters: in 4 years, the number of ships increased from 240 to 482. This is mostly due to the new ship skins, but there are quite a few new additions in there as well. Visually, the big update is the fact that every ship has a background matching its race, which makes for a much more colorful layout. I ordered the ships by race so it does not look like a giant patchwork.


Alternatively, I made separate posters for each race:





Sadly there are no tools (that I know of) which could automate taking the ship screenshots, so it’s a manual screenshot-extravaganza to get it all together, taking them and cropping them all manually. It was worth it though, both for the WordPress plugin and the poster.

Dec 3 2014

EVE ShipsInfo wordpress plugin

Have you ever wanted to just show some nice inline ship information in your blog posts, or simply display a thematic list of ships? Like, say, the top 20 fastest warping frigates in EVE?

Here, let me… there’s a shortcode for that.

NameWarp speedRaceGroup
Cockroach20.00 AU/SGallentefrigate
Claw8.00 AU/SMinmatarinterceptor
Caedes8.00 AU/SAmarrcovert ops
Buzzard8.00 AU/SCaldaricovert ops
Stiletto8.00 AU/SMinmatarinterceptor
Taranis8.00 AU/SGallenteinterceptor
Ares8.00 AU/SGallenteinterceptor
Helios8.00 AU/SGallentecovert ops
Malediction8.00 AU/SAmarrinterceptor
Anathema8.00 AU/SAmarrcovert ops
Crow8.00 AU/SCaldariinterceptor
Chremoas8.00 AU/SMinmatarcovert ops
Whiptail8.00 AU/SCaldariinterceptor
Imp8.00 AU/SAmarrinterceptor
Crusader8.00 AU/SAmarrinterceptor
Raptor8.00 AU/SCaldariinterceptor
Cheetah8.00 AU/SMinmatarcovert ops
Dramiel7.50 AU/SMinmatarfrigate
Vengeance5.50 AU/SAmarrassault frigate
Wolf5.50 AU/SMinmatarassault frigate

If you click on a ship name, you get a popup with a view of the ship, as well as all essential ship attributes.

Tables are cool, but personally I live for the eye candy – which is why there’s a shortcode to build galleries. Let’s try, say, all battlecruiser hulls with 6 or more high slots and 6 or more lowslots:

This is all made possible with a WordPress plugin I built, called EVE ShipInfo. It’s an evolution of an older similar script I had built quite some time ago. In essence it adds a portable EVE Online ships database to your WordPress blog, complete with front and side screenshots for for all 418 ship hulls (at the time of writing, with the Phoebe release). There is still a lot to be improved, but making it better is the fun part now that the core works 🙂

If you have an EVE-related blog, I invite you to check it out, and feedback is always appreciated. For developers the easy to use API can be interesting as well if you want to query the database from one of your own plugins.

To learn more and download it, check out the EVE ShipInfo plugin homepage.

Sep 9 2014

Aeon’s portraits collection

I introduced the collection a while ago, and since then it has grown quite a bit. There are 137 portraits in total now, and I weeded out a few. On top of this, I added different display sizes and a sorting mode by weight, which orders the list by my subjective preference.

Aeon's Portraits Collection - Updated

Mar 3 2014

Aeon’s portraits collection

EVE’s portrait generator along with the imagination and creativity of New Eden’s pilots has given birth to many great characters. One of my favorite pastimes is rolling throwaway alternate characters to play around with the character creator. A while ago I started collecting portraits from pilots in local to use as inspiration, and lately I built a miniature gallery to be able to view them easily ingame.

They are exclusively female characters and match the kind of character I like personally, so they might not be what you’re looking for – but I thought I’d share anyway:

Aeon's Portraits Collection

There are only around 50 portraits at the time of writing, but I will keep adding new portraits as I go along. The list is anonymous, and there are no character details on purpose. If you are hell bent on finding out who a portrait belongs to, you can use the portrait’s ID to trace it back. I will let you find out how that works.

Jan 8 2014

Day 2622: New Frontiers

Living in deep space: The mobile depot
While new Eden is more or less unchanged, the recent ship evolutions and new capsuleer equipment feel like new frontiers have been opened. Personal deployable structures like the Mobile Depot or Mobile Tractor Unit are slowly changing the way we live our in-space lives. With such flexibility and added autonomy while in space, I think that these tools are able to some extent to redefine the role that stations play. Refitting your ship in space was a small revolution with the launch of the Orca, even if it meant you needed a buddy with one. Now however, for the cost of only 50 m3 in your cargo hold, you can refit virtually anywhere, anytime. No need to fly back to station if you forgot to switch out your hardeners, with enough cargo space you can even carry several fittings around with you. Explorers can use them as a base of operations of sorts, bringing back the loot they gather without ever needing to dock at a station – you only need a hauler trip to collect everything. Granted, with a station or POS nearby there are few reasons to do so, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you are far afield.

With the mobile tractor unit, for 100 m3 more in your cargo, you can also free up the high slot usually used for the tractor beam. Aeon being a big fan of automating redundant tasks, the Mobile Tractor Unit was a very welcome addition indeed. He launches it when he warps into mission space, and lets it do all the tedious work of collecting loot and gathering up wrecks. Combined with salvage drones to do the salvaging, that is even one more high slot module less to worry about. Of course it is not as effective as using a dedicated ship like the Noctis, and these tools were never meant as a replacement for a dedicated salvager: more often than not, you need to linger after all npcs have been destroyed waiting for the salvage drones to finish salvaging. If you are a long way from home however, being able to do all that without sacrificing precious module slots is a boon.

Both Aeon and Loreena embraced these new tools instantly. Loreena bought the original blueprints to be independent of the inevitably unrealistic startup market prices, and has built enough to outfit most of the ships with them. This is when Aeon realized that Amarr ships have a distinct advantage: since they do not need to carry large amounts of ammo like missile or projectile based ships, they have the most spare cargo space and can easily carry all the extra weight.

Marauders: Overkill works.

Sparhawk's Wrath: Paladin-class Marauder
Speaking of cargo space, Aeon’s Paladin-class marauder “Sparhawk’s Wrath” while having 100 m3 less space than its other racial counterparts, still beats them in terms of raw free space. Aeon carries some tracking computer scripts, a few sets of T2 and T1 laser crystals, a Mobile Depot and a Mobile Tractor Unit. This gives him a useable space of 940 m3, enough to loot and salvage most level 4 clearance missions.

The marauder class battleships have been the pinnacle of the PvE playstyle since their inception, but with the new bastion module they have been elevated to something way beyond. The added tanking capability frees up more space for damage or utility-related modules, turning them into machines of mass destruction – which are, to boot, impervious to any kind of electronic warfare. The only drawback in bastion mode is that the ship becomes stationary and cannot receive logistics support. Considering the staggering speed at which these behemoths usually fly, becoming stationary is not exactly an issue. Aeon’s “Sparhawk’s Wrath” manages a blinding 121 m/s top speed, barely more than a snail anyway. The logistics support limitations are primarily directed at fleet warfare, where it definitely makes sense. With the added resistances accross the board in bastion mode, keeping a marauder alive with logistics would be way too easy.

Worldsplitter: Kronos-class Marauder
In practice, these additions are real game changers for mission runners, one of the easily overlooked advantages being that you need a lot less bling to do the same or better. Aeon used to have very expensive X-Type armor hardener modules to improve “Sparhawk’s Wrath” tank, but these have now been replaced by faction heat sinks. As it stands, only the armor repairer has any real value in the eyes of a ganker, and even that is not really worth the fight. While Aeon is certainly not entirely off the hook, it goes a long way to make him a less attractive target for gankers – and at the same time, he was able to drastically increase the ship’s damage output.

The most impressive bit however is the increased range: Aeon uses Pulse lasers on “Sparhawk’s Wrath”, which have higher damage output and use less capacitor than Beam lasers – with the tradeoff of being short range. To circumvent that limitation somewhat, Aeon has been using double Tracking Computers with Optimal Range scripts for a while now. Without the bastion module, this gives him an optimal range of 80Km with Scorch crystals. With the bastion module enabled, this goes up to 96Km (115Km with falloff)… not bad for close-range turrets. In case of tracking issues or when the npcs are orbiting close, Aeon simply switches to Tracking Speed scripts. This enables him to hit up to destroyer-sized ships as long as they orbit no closer than approximately 13Km.

Sisters of EVE: Widening the boundaries of exploration

When the Sisters of EVE promoted a few (two, to be exact) more security agents to level 4 clearance, Aeon took “X-Wing”, his Golem-class Marauder, over to Minmatar space to run some missions for them. The aim was to earn enough loyalty points with them to purchase a Stratios blueprint from them. When he got to Lanngisi, there were almost as many capsuleers at work in the system as in the major trade hubs like Rens. After running a single mission in which ninja salvagers fought among themselves over Aeon’s wrecks, he decided to give up and wait out the novelty – the tension in the area was easily palpable. It was no good place to bring an expensively fitted ship like the Golem, even if there was an impressive amount of high-end ships constantly docking and undocking from the single station in-system. Aeon needed a ship that would not attract too much attention.

About a month later, the opportunity presented itself. A capsuleer friend was working up her standings with the Sisters of EVE by running level 1 clearance missions. Anyone who has had to grind level 1 missions for standings will know how much fun that is. Aeon jumped on the occasion to help out by fleeting up and sharing his level 4 standing rewards and loyalty points. He also found the perfect ship for the job: “Awooooogah MK2”, a Typhoon Fleet Issue class battleship. With just plain faction modules, it was not worth ganking. However, with its speed tanking capabilities and damage output, it was more than adequate to run any level 4 mission.

Pro tip: always carry a cheap, small volume item in your cargo: when there is nothing nearby to orbit, jettison it and orbit the container.

Aeon freely admits to being somewhat pampered by the Marauder’s fighting style (Loreena enjoys teasing him with that), but the experience of flying the Typhoon was quite a revelation. It was pure, unhindered joy and carnage. A battleship that fast is not to be taken lightly, and the already quite adequate tank turns into somewhat of a wonder as soon as you start orbiting things. At an orbit range of 3500 metres, the ship can maintain an orbit speed above 300 m/s, as fast as some heavy combat drones like the Ogre or Wasp. In the course of the missions Aeon encountered, very few situations stressed the tank much, as log as he made good use of the ship’s speed. Even missions with longer distances to the connecting acceleration gates were actually enjoyable.

Stratios Exploration Cruiser
In just two days of heavy grinding, Aeon had been able to elevate his friend’s standings substantially, as well as earn enough loyalty points with the Sisters of EVE to redeem a Stratios blueprint copy from their loyalty store. After all the hype around the new Sisters ships Aeon was happy to be able to finally testdrive this new tool. The mission loot modules Aeon had collected over the last missions were just enough to build the ship, and since these blueprints require very little manufacturing skills, Aeon was able to build the ship directly on the spot.

The next morning, the ship was ready. With all the recent changes in New Eden, Aeon felt that a little symbolism was in order. He christened the ship “New Frontiers”, a fitting name for an exploration ship in an age of exploration. A lengthy and fun EFT session came up with a first experimental fit for the ship, which surprisingly makes a very good replacement for the exploration Legion Aeon had been using before the T3 cruisers were banned from using many of the exploration acceleration gates.

There is just one slightly scary detail about the design of the Stratios. From the manufacturer’s description:

“The crew itself is safely protected from any number of transmittable ailments from rescues and other unexpected passengers, thanks to special quarantine bays that are conveniently located near jettisonable openings”

Which is to mean what exactly? That if a capsuleer picks up some sick refugees, he can jettison them in space on a whim? It is very uncharacteristic of the Sisters of EVE, even if the solution itself is indeed very practical. I suppose that it’s a good deterrent for picking up stowaways if they know they can be jettisoned even faster than before… Because we all know that it’s just a matter of convenience, illegal passengers are “airlocked” all the time 🙂

The infamous sidenote

I mentioned my additional character in the previous log‘s sidenote, the project has changed somewhat. I should know better by now that to try to go out of my usual playstyle. Not that it is a bad thing, it is always fun – but it never lasts. I always come back to what I already do with Aeon and Loreena. The upside is that I’m learning a lot by living in lowsec, in particular honing my survival skills. I have been playing for over seven years now, and nullsec still eludes me – but nor for lack of enthusiasm. I make short forays there, but I know by now that my real life lifestyle just does not permit the required concentration for prolonged visits. It used to bother me quite a bit, but then I realized that I don’t care enough. I like the casual playstyle with occasional thrills.

The plan now is to get that character into a Vargur, the only marauder that I have not flown yet. Depending on what I decide, I may add the character to the captain’s logs to relate the lowsec adventures – but I will cross that bridge when I feel like it. For now I am not even sure it will be a permanent project 🙂

To finish off, eye candy!

Angus' Fist: Hyperion-class BattleshipInitiating system jump - Hyperion-class BattleshipCoasting at Choonkas Diner in the Ashab systemDerelict Minmatar StargateAwooogah MK2: Fleet issue Typhoon-class BattleshipSentient drone battleship

Sep 5 2013

Day 2519: Evolution

Everyone evolves personally through experience. From hard setbacks to simple enlightening realizations, we slowly increase our comprehension of the complex world we live in. Aeon is no exception, even if he lives in a fictional universe. One might argue that even if New Eden is fictional, the events and experiences happening in that alternate reality have a solid basis in fact through the thoughts and emotions that we, as puppet masters, feel as we instill life into our imaginary avatars.

One such hard setback was Aeon losing his second POS during my vacation. I had everything set for the time out, from skill training to planetary installations production plans – or so I thought. The one detail I missed was refueling the POS, which would have easily made it last for the time I was away. An offline POS being a choice target, a noname corp managed to find it and destroy it. I prefer not to think too much about everything he lost in there, but let it be a lesson; What exactly the lesson should be is another matter. I suppose there are several lessons hidden in there, one of which is that EVE stays true to its reputation of being a harsh universe.

What has always defined Aeon is that he sees setbacks not only as lessons to be learned, but also opportunities to tread new paths. POSs are out of the picture for a while, so new plans were forged for the winter. Several things presented themselves almost instantly: a change of scenery, and a new ride. Aeon has been out of Minmatar space for way too long, and having at long last perfected his missile skills, he now also has the tools to take the fight to those pesky Angel rats with the right tools. Anyone who has shot at Angels with lasers will be able to tell you that it is not particularly effective.

The plan, as it stands, is to move back to Minnie space and to prepare for his new ride. It has been in preparation for the better part of one year on and off: a Black Ops ship, possibly a Redeemer class one. The Black Ops skill level V is finishing in about 9 days, but the issue will be the cash flow. The loss of the POS and unproductive lifestyle have left Aeon’s liquid assets pretty low. No ship nor module gets sold, so new cash has to be earned. I think he has his work cut out for him for the winter, as the ship costs upward of 1.2 billion without fitting. Those Angels better brace themselves, methinks they are in for a few sobering encounters.

Speaking of missions and experience, sometimes obvious facts and concepts take a while to permeate one’s brain. Aeon is no exception, and while he has been familiar with the concept of damage types to defend against and to attack with for quite some time, one fact had been eluding him until recently: it is a good idea to combine your defensive modules with the adequate type of tank. In plain text, if for example you fly against Sansha rats who deal primarily EM and thermal damage, you should use an armor tanked ship – because armor is naturally a lot more resistant to EM and thermal damage than shields. Mindboggingly obvious, but still quite a revelation. Add some damage specific hardeners to this, and suddenly you have a much better tank with less effort as compared to a shield tanked ship that is naturally weak to EM and thermal damage.

What this realization brought about is a more conscious choice of ship depending on the enemy Aeon is facing in missions. The Paladin is still the ship of choice for Sansha missions, but for Angel missions for example the Golem is a much better choice – especially since it can shoot explosive missiles. Scientists have yet to find a way to put explosive power into lasers (seriously, what’s keeping them?). Aeon’s top choice of ships currently consists of:

– “Sparhawks Wrath”, Paladin-class, Armor tanked, Pulse lasers
– “Serottas Legacy”, Nightmare-class, Shield tanked, Pulse lasers
– “X-Wing”, Golem-class, Shield tanked, Cruise missiles
– “Angus’ Fist”, Hyperion-class, Armor tanked, Blasters

The one big trouble with Marauder Battleships like the Paladin or the Golem are their sensor strengths. Sansha rats these days have very effective and annoying tracking disruption, so the weak sensor strength makes them easy targets. If you try to run a mission like The Blockade in the Paladin without fitting a Radar ECCM module, you will be frustrated very quickly. Pirate battleships like the Nightmare on the other hand have very good sensor strength, and do not need ECCM modules. The fit Aeon uses on the Paladin makes it a hassle to refit to use an ECCM module, so when he is feeling lazy he just uses the Golem. Missiles are immune to tracking disruption (as they do not track like turrets), so it is a good choice even if the shield tank is not the optimal configuration.

I think Aeon is looking forward to the change. He has a long history of moving around nomadically, then settling down somewhere for a while until some invisible switch is flipped. The switch has just been flipped, and as always the change washes a new wave of purpose over him. He’s looking forward to Lustrevik, the ancestral home of Syrkos Technologies, as well as the neighboring Metropolis region and the mysterious Cosmos constellations. Aeon has exhausted the missioning opportunities with the cosmos agents, but Loreena has been wanting to run some of those missions with Aeon’s help. Also, the minmatar epic arc awaits once more (it resets every 6 months or so last time I checked).

I also look forward to watching Aeon make his traditional stop in Ammold, the station where he christened and flew his first ship ever. It is heartening in a way to see how even creatures as evolved as pod pilots will still cling to simple things such as these. In as harsh a universe as New Eden, this gives me hope for mankind.

The traditional sidenote

I have started a little experiment on the side with another (undisclosed) character. I joined a roleplaying corp, and found the experience quite interesting. I figured that since I like writing and stories in general, I’d have a go. It is a bit awkward at times when you have to stay in-character and refrain from putting smiley faces at the end of every sentence, but after getting used to it it is good fun. When inspiration strikes it can make for some epic stories wrought by several people together. I recommend to at least try it once 🙂

Eye candy!

Illegal research station somewhere in Tash-MurkonTarget practice during the The Anomaly mission

Nov 14 2012

The holy grail of the explorer

Ever since running highsec complexes and scanning down anomalies, I have been on a quest to find a ship that would be powerful enough to combine all the tasks related to these sites. In a fleet everything is easy, because you just have to define roles for each fleet member. If you fly solo like me, you usually have to refit depending on the type of site you find. Switching between salvage profession sites, archaeology sites, codebreaking sites or even encounter sites can be a real hassle. Add to this the fact that to find good sites you often have to go far afield (or even hop into a wormhole), so you do not always have access to a fitting service.

To make things even more interesting, a substantial amount of sites have ship size limits on their gates, so the idea of fitting a catch-all battleship goes out the window. Those who tried to use a battlecruiser quickly noticed that more often than not, only cruiser-sized ships are allowed. In the past, I have had quite some success with cruisers like the Maller or the Omen, but those ships are quickly overwhelmed by the DPS these sites can dash out. A better choice was the Zealot, and more recently even a Devoter. They have superior capacitor, and have enough slots to fit a number of utility modules. However, it was never enough. I always had to switch modules as needed between analyzer and codebreaker, and I had to use my scanning ship to scan down sites first, then go get the combat ship. Doable, but not practical.

When strategic cruisers became available, I started using my ship, Alea’s Nemesis, to run some complexes. Like the name suggests, strategic cruisers are cruiser-sized, so they fit any gate that also lets cruisers through. A revelation! But my first attempts were not bold enough, and I was not familiar enough with how subsystems work. The result was a better version of the devoter fit, without being really satisfying. Recently I fired up EFT again, and took my time to review all possible combinations. When the final fit was ready, I knew my quest was at an end: I had found the holy grail of solo complex running.

[Legion, Complex Specialist II]
Imperial Navy Medium Armor Repairer
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Armor EM Hardener II
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Imperial Navy Heat Sink

Federation Navy Stasis Webifier
Republic Fleet 10MN Afterburner
Codebreaker II
Analyzer II

Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Improved Cloaking Device II
Salvager II
Small Tractor Beam II
Sisters Core Probe Launcher, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I
Medium Energy Burst Aerator I
Medium Nanobot Accelerator I

Legion Defensive - Adaptive Augmenter
Legion Electronics - Emergent Locus Analyzer
Legion Engineering - Capacitor Regeneration Matrix
Legion Propulsion - Fuel Catalyst
Legion Offensive - Drone Synthesis Projector

Valkyrie II x5
Hammerhead II x5

Update: Vectis mailed me an alternate fit: it’s less agile and drops the tractor beam, but it has more tank and DPS. I used the same faction modules than my fit for easy comparison:

[Legion, Complex Specialist Vectis]
Imperial Navy Medium Armor Repairer
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Armor EM Hardener II
Imperial Navy Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane
Capacitor Power Relay II

Federation Navy Stasis Webifier
Republic Fleet 10MN Afterburner
Codebreaker II
Analyzer II

Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Heavy Pulse Laser II, Conflagration M
Improved Cloaking Device II
Salvager II
Sisters Core Probe Launcher, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I
Medium Energy Burst Aerator I
Medium Nanobot Accelerator I

Legion Defensive - Nanobot Injector
Legion Electronics - Emergent Locus Analyzer
Legion Engineering - Augmented Capacitor Reservoir
Legion Propulsion - Chassis Optimization
Legion Offensive - Drone Synthesis Projector

Valkyrie II x5
Hammerhead II x5

You might argue that a ship that tries to do everything at once can’t be good, and you would be right. However, that is missing the point: I was specifically trying to find a ship that does everything, and that it does. If you look closely, you will see that this ship can shoot, cloak, probe, salvage, analyze, codebreak, web, shoot, carry drones, tank and fly fast. In a nutshell, you don’t ever need to dock again to refit when running complexes. You scan down the sites and run them, period. The only thing this ship lacks is DPS and arguably cargo space, but after running quite a few sites I found the DPS to be adequate, especially if counting drones. Usually you only keep the valuable stuff when on the move, so the cargo space is not too big an issue.

The fit uses the subsystem that gives a bonus to probing, so if your probing skills are not too bad you will be able to scan down everything your scanning ship can. The 200 m3 drone bay lets you carry a whole fleet of drones, and the cloak is the crowning on the cake. Launch your probes and cloak up, scan down sites in peace and evade any potential hunters. An added bonus is that in this configuration, the ship looks a bit like a miniature Avatar 🙂

I tried to find ways to increase the DPS a bit more, but while it is possible by adding some heat sinks, the ship really needs its tank. If you chance upon an escalation, you will need every little bit of that tank. The speed is vital to keep at range if you are overwhelmed, so you have to be careful not to get webbed. The version of the fit that I fly has a better armor repairer, a Centum A-Type, which brings the defence to 419. If you can afford it, I recommend getting one or at least a C-Type.

Any suggestions on improving this fit are welcome!

On a sidenote, I think a litte eye candy is in order.

Apr 22 2012

Day 2014: Pirate faction mayhem

Over the last few months, both Aeon and Loreena have spent quite some time cleaning up their assets, and taking a closer look at their ships collection. As statisfying as running missions in the Paladin / Kronos duo can be, a little diversity is the key to keeping things interesting. Since Aeon has cross-trained some more race ship skills, he unlocked the unsounded depths of his wallet and went on a few shopping sprees from Rens and Amarr to Jita.

The choice piece of the lot was the Bhaalgorn, which Aeon fittingly called “Bird of Prey”. I never thought he would own one someday, since I always dismissed it because of its PvP-oriented bonuses (namely to energy vampires / destabilizers and webifiers). There is more to a ship than raw numbers however, and the Bhaalgorn is no exception. It reminds me of the Nightmare, which has a similar rough and unbridled power.

Where the Paladin acts as a stationary artillery platform, the Bhaalgorn likes it fast, up close and personal. Get into range with the afterburner, pin your target down with the webifier, replenish your capacitor vampire style while you are at it, and blast them to shreds. It may be that I am imagining things, but I suspect those NPC ships not to be as impervious to energy vampires as they should be. It seems to me that they go down faster when vampirizied – but even if they are indeed immune, it has the advantage of keeping your cap flow maxed out. Between the Nightmare, Bhaalgorn and Paladin, Aeon now has three ships with fundamentally different philosophies to choose from, which is perfect to keep things interesting. Try out some missions with a different ship, and you will often find that it is quite another experience.

To spice things up even further, Aeon has been running some of the starter missions with some new ships as well. As frigate, he chose the Succubus. That thing is evil right to its core, and melts through everything like a hot knife through butter. Very efficient, and fun to fly. Its bigger brother, the cruiser-sized Phantasm, follows the same concept – but with more staying power. The capacitor support of both ships is surprisingly good, offering a lot of leeway in terms of modules and building stable fittings. Their twisted design adds a lot to the fun, even though I can understand that it is not something everyone appreciates.

Running the starter missions was nice for a change, and even if they were not what I would call challenging with the tools and skills at hand, they did feel more alive than the eternal level 4 missions everyone knows by heart now. The storytelling in them was a lot more polished. I think this is where the game could use more depth, something to make our fights more worthwile. I still love EVE as much as the first day, but coming back from a story-driven game like Mass Effect makes the missions in EVE seem hollow, without real purpose. There are no big choices to be made (okay, in The Anomaly you can choose to let the scientist escape in the drone ship, or destroy it), and they have no real consequences. Also, why does my agent never congratulate me on dispatching all enemy ships in missions like The Score, where killing that whole fleet is purely optional? A little recognition of my work would go a long way to make PvE meaningful. I would like my actions in the game to be more than generating ISK with simple cover stories to justify their existence.

Some of the new missions are quite good, like one of my new favorites, Dread Pirate Scarlet. The randomness is a welcome addition, having to think a bit and react to new parameters each time you run the mission is definitely a step in the right direction. We will always need missions like Gone Berserk, which are fun based on the underlying mechanics, but more quality storylines like the starter missions or epic arcs would be great.

For now though I am waiting to see the effects in practice of the new expansion. Focusing on wars and space combat is important for EVE as a game, because a large part of it is player versus player. Of course I have concerns regarding the effects this can have on my PvE playstyle, namely through the more streamlined war features, with the goal to make highsec wars easier. As CCP themselves have stated, the only way to protect yourself against wars is to join an NPC corporation. I will always be loyal to JVC and Sytek, so that will never be an option. I don’t really think it will change that much for us, but being at war constantly would effectively ruin the game for PvE centric pilots.

Of course that’s the ages old debate of PvP players vs PvE players, which is more or less exactly the same kind of useless fight as PC vs Mac. There will never be an optimal solution for either side, and ultimately they need each other. So in fine, my concern is whether CCP will be able to keep both worlds balanced so neither has to cut back. Then again, if all wardecs could be like the last one JVC was in, I would be quite content: the CEO of the one-man corporation that declared war on us did not log on once during the whole week. It was even better than that other CEO who had chosen JVC randomly in the alliances list while drunk. They were so far away fom any of us that we never saw a single war target.

Anyway, to wrap this up, Aeon has once again moved his base of operations because his missioning system was getting too crowded. Trust there to be a good potential for foolishness as soon as your missioning system hits an average of over 30 pilots. Ashokon was reaching peaks of 100 pilots and more, and miners complaining of getting ganked in local is never a good sign. The new system was 19 jumps away, and seems to be quite promising. Aeon and Loreena had to go through Niarja to get there – which is never really fun, especially with pimped mission ships. Getting targeted by tier 3 battlecruisers hovering on the gates always brings a momentary chill, but so far they have been able to get everything to destination in one piece. Loreena had it easiest, she took the Orca to move everything except the Kronos. With a special defense fit, the Orca is probably one of the safest (of the slow) ships to move things around. Transport ships are still the best option in my opinion, but that depends on the size of the cargo of course. Transporting fully fitted ships in the Orca is always a big bonus.

Let’s see how Aeon and Loreena like their new home, but I already like the new agent: the first mission he gave Aeon was Gone Berserk, one of his top 10 favorites 🙂

On a sidenote, Loreena had to indulge herself a little and went from a natural brunette to a natural blonde (that’s the beauty of modern DNA alteration technology). I think Aeon approves.

Sep 24 2011

Day 1806: Discovering lowsec & nullsec

A derelict Proteus in a debris field - wishful thinking much?

I have made several attempts to discover and learn more about both lowsec and nullsec in the past. I was never really successful, and I was meaning to try again someday. As a solo player, there is not much incentive to go there, apart maybe for the adrenaline kicks. It is largely viewed as a very dangerous place, and even if they are usually not enclined to admit it, many players are afraid of it. I can honestly say that I was afraid of it as well, and still am in a way. While in genesis, I decided to take Aeon on a sightseeing trip to one of the local nullsec access points. The idea was to try and do some ninja ratting under the noses of the locals, in a cheapish ship that could cloak. What I came up with brought back some memories: I revived the Pilgrim of yore and fitted it as a pure drone carrier. That way I am entirely ammo-independent, and not fitting guns meant I could put lots of utility modules on it and stay cap stable.

After hopping into an empty clone, I used an Anathema to do some scouting. I found an interesting route of about six systems in a row in 0.1 sec that I could start my exploration in. It was still lowsec, so no warp disruption bubbles – which is a plus when you start out. The only danger comes from gate camps, but with a cloakable ship you are extremely hard to catch. People on gate camps usually have some small ships with fast lock times along, but since you can cloak more or less instantly, the only danger is if they try to approach your last known location to try to decloak you.

I encountered a few pilots here and there, but most systems were just empty. When I felt a bit more confident, I went back and took the Pilgrim. While roaming through the lowsec area I had scouted, I took note of the people flying there, checking bios and security statuses. To my surprise, there was a fair share of 5.0 security pilots. I scoured some belts, and found BS of up to 1,1 million bounty. Not a bad start, and speed tanking them was easy. The old trick with orbiting a container you jettison is still as effective. With an orbit speed of about 450 m/s, there’s not much that gets through to the ship’s tank. Of course you have this leisure only when you are alone in the system, if you’re not you have to assume the other pilots are looking for you or setting traps.

For example, I scanned down some seemingly lost drones with two other players in the system. When I finally locked on them with my combat scanner probes and warped to them (cloaked of course), no one was there as expected. However, as soon as I decloaked the other player decloaked and started locking my ship. You always have to be ready, so I managed to warp away in time. I did not expect this kind of cunning trap however, and have since revised my behavior with people in-system. Scanning stuff down is okay, since you can do that cloaked. Actually going there to investigate I now do when any lurkers have gone.

After a little while, I got more confident moving around. I have not encountered any gate camps so far, so that’s still mostly theory. I’m quite sure I’ll find some in the future though, and they will provide some crucial experience. For now, I set up camp in a nullsec system with two NPC stations from where I can launch skirmishes into the surrounding systems. All in all it has been easier than I thought, but it confirmed what I already suspected: nullsec is the playground of corporations, alliances and PvP gangs. Solo players like myself in search of things other than PvP will be hard pressed to find something to make them stay for long. It’s fun for a while, but in my case I soon missed the freedom of movement (think in terms of being able to minimize local and the directional scanner) that highsec offers.

A proteus coasting next to an anomaly.

My tip if you want to have a look at lowsec or nullsec: get a frigate hull ship that can fit a cloak, and slap a MWD (Micro Warp Drive) on it. I can only recommend skilling up for a Covert Ops frigate, as those ships have a lot of uses and are really fun to fly. If you jump into a gatecamp, you can use the tested and tried MWD + Cloak trick: Remember you have 30 seconds after a jump to get your bearings. Use them! You increase the chances of someone else jumping into the system as well, creating a bit more confusion as the gate campers now have more than one target to choose from. Select a point in space in front of you as far away from the gate campers as possible, and when ready fly towards it, activate your MWD and THEN the cloak. This will give you one cycle of the MWD before the cloak automatically turns it off. You can now warp off safely.

From a gate camper’s point of view, it looks like this: they can see someone jumped into the system (the gate shows that familiar flash of light), so the tackler(s) get ready to lock whoever is going to decloak. As soon as you decloak, they will try to lock you, as well as fly towards you. However, with that MWD boost, your ship shoots off in one direction and a few seconds later, disappears. They can try to decloak you, but determining your position is difficult.

You will find gate camps in two different places: when you jump into a system, or when you warp to a stargate. The first you cannot avoid; you have to use the MWD trick I described above. For the second, you have to understand that for a gate camp to be effective (especially in nullsec if they use bubbles), they have to place it on the warp trajectory between two gates – that way if you warp from gate to gate directly, you fall directly into the gate camp. So the solution is pretty simple: warp to a celestial before you warp to the gate you want to use, like a planet. This will alter the angle from which you warp to the gate, and avoid the gate camp entirely. Always use warp to 0 in this case.

I’m still figuring things out, but with those rules you can move around pretty safely. The key really is to use a small, fast ship. Needless to say, trying to do this in a battleship is not a good idea. That, and keep your cool. Come to grips with the fact that you will lose your ship sooner or later, as well as your pod – and think your way through each situation. That’s a lot easier if you don’t take your T3 on the first try 🙂

I just realized that if you take into account that this is the log entry for day 1806 of my travels, which means that it took me about 1800 days to finally take the step to go into nullsec. What changed? I could not say. More confidence maybe, a higher understanding of the power of the unknown or simply less concern about my expendable body? Regardless, I think it’s still pretty funny and shows how big of a carebear I am!