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


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 1807: Nightmares

Can you sleep with that in your hangar?

So lately I had a conversation with my good friend Serotta Ortot (from Here Be Monsters) who was asking me if there was any ship I was still hoping to get someday. That was actually a question I had given a bit of thought to, and the answer was a Nightmare, one of the faction battleships. It is a good match for Aeon’s skills, and it is renowned to be a DPS beast and overall amazing missioning boat. Its design is somewhat twisted, but unarguably original. As I had just bought Loreena a Kronos, getting one was a plan for the long term.

Long story short, Serotta offered to buy me the ship in exchange for some help in creating a poster for his thesis. Now that was an offer I could not refuse 🙂 He gave me his concept for the poster, and I prepared a preview version. The same day, I went to pick up the ship (in Jita if I recall correctly). The first hurdle was the fact that I had not fit a shield tank on a ship in several years. Since the Maelstrom in my first year of EVE, actually. Serotta was nice enough to sponsor a faction shield booster, and soon I had a working fit.

Dubbed the “HMS Serotta”, the ship proved to be everything I expected it to be: a beast. It pretty much rivals the Paladin in both tank and DPS. It cannot beat the Paladin, but that’s not the point – flying into a mission with it just feels awesome. If you are into role playing your characters occasionally, you cannot pass up on the scene of that behemoth warping into a bunch of NPCs and leaving a trail of smoking wrecks in its wake. If looks could kill, this thing would surely leave a few enemy pod pilots dead from shock on the battlefield.

Here is my current fit:

[Nightmare, Missioning]
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Capacitor Flux Coil II
Capacitor Flux Coil II
Capacitor Flux Coil II

Domination Large Shield Booster
Photon Scattering Field II
Photon Scattering Field II
Heat Dissipation Field II
Heat Dissipation Field II
Republic Fleet 100MN Afterburner
Gist A-Type Shield Boost Amplifier

Small Tractor Beam I
Salvager II
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L

Large Capacitor Control Circuit I
Large Capacitor Control Circuit I
Large Capacitor Control Circuit I

Warrior II x5
Hammerhead II x5

Not much to say here – with my skills it is cap stable without the AB/Salvager/Tractor. Could use some better modules – a ship like this deserves investing, especially tank wise and cap support wise (think T2 CCC rigs).

Some theoretical stats (vs Sansha):

– 946 DPS / 3646 volley with Hammerhead drones (791 without)
– 461 sustained tank. 86k EHP
– 321 m/s with AB (118 without)
– Resists: 76,5% / 81,2% / 40% / 50%

What I did not anticipate however, was that flying this ship announced the end of a great chapter in my EVE life. Indeed, Serotta had been unsatisfied with CCP’s vision for EVE for a while now, and a few days later along with a new client patch, he decided to quit EVE. You can read his related blog post, I understand his reasons completely. It had been a long time in coming, I know he was trying to revive his interest in the game – but in retrospect, attempting this in the middle of Incarna and a series of controversial updates was not an ideal time. As usual your mileage varies, so far I have not had many client crashes, and my play style does not touch much on the big issues being discussed.

Details aside, I currently live in a strange duality. It is both a happy time for rediscovering the game, but also a sad time for losing a longtime friend (fortunately only ingame!) – hence the plural in the post title. My secret hope is that he will come back, but somehow I feel that his decision is final – and I respect that.

THANKS FOR EVERYTHING AND GOOD LUCK!


Apr 12 2010

Day 1244: Aramean Excavations

Before I jump to the heart of the matter, a little history: Loreena has not always been at Aeon’s side. Before the advent of wormholes popping up throughout new eden, a very rare wormhole event lead to a planet’s destruction – and to Loreena being one of its very few survivors. The planet was Loreena’s homeworld, Aramea. You can read more about this turn of events in their Biographies.

Aramea's Glory Days

Aramea, Loreena's homeworld before the cataclysm

Since that day, and thanks to Aeon, she has been able to get past the initial shock and to build a life for herself. About a year ago however, Ammatar scientists discovered that a large debris field near Gamis in the Derelik region was none other than the remains of Aramea, catapulted there by the wormhole from the vicinity of Oshaima and Hysera in Caldari space. Loreena went to explore the debris lately, and came back changed.

This is a transcript of what happened, as viewed by the people involved.

Note: non-roleplaying captain’s log continued below.

Aeon

The changes that the visit operated in Loreena were not immediately clear to Aeon, until a rather peculiar request reached him from a group of officials from the Ammatar Consulate Bureau in Tanoo. They wanted him to attend a reception in Loreena’s honor.

His interest was piqued. Apparently she was to be awarded a decoration, and he had no idea what she could be decorated for. But then they had never really talked much, they kept in touch but both lead their own lives. Still, this was different… he wondered why she had not mentioned it before. People do not drop a decoration on you without first telling you how lucky you are. Puzzled, he did what he always did: stop brooding and hunt for more information.

Information turned out to be surprisingly hard to hunt, and that always made him wary. Something was about to happen, and it would be big.

Loreena

She watched a piece of Aramea’s crust idly float by, its rotation catching the light of Gamis’ white dwarf star. She still did not know how to handle Aeon. She felt bad about dropping everything on him like this, but she knew otherwise he would try to stop her – and packed with feelings as she was, she was scared of losing it right there. She knew she was not being entirely sane, so she clung to her only hope of personal redemption.

The Ammatar consulate had sent her the final details of the reception that morning, so everything was ready. Hopefully the information filters she had put in place in Aeon’s infogrid would have kept him from finding out ahead of schedule. Her logs showed some activity, that was to be expected. To say she had not been her usual self was a gross understatement, so he was bound to notice. Glumly she aligned the ship and warped out. You do not treat family like this, she thought. Especially since there was not much family left. The debris field receded quickly behind her as warp engaged.

She shut off her emotions, she had to act now before she went to pieces.

Aeon

Sytek’s information board chimed. His worried frown turned into genuine concern when he read that Loreena had stepped down as acting CEO and designated him as new CEO. The concern quickly changed into anger – he did not like surprises, and especially not people going behind his back like this. What the blazes was she up to? This was not like her at all. He let the anger infuse him for a while, but quickly put it aside again. Being mad could be enjoyable, but it was never particularly productive.

He wiped his systems clean to get rid of the filters he was now sure she had put in place, otherwise he would have seen her drop all corp roles. Apparently him being the new CEO was an information she deemed him fit to receive, so whatever she was planning was coming to a head. He took a moment to suppress his anger again, she would never do this willingly. Either she was in real trouble, or she was going mad.

Whatever it was, he waited patiently for the decoration ceremony on Tanoo. His locator agent showed she was on her way there, so he made ready for the reception himself. He would have time to act after she put her cards on the table.

Loreena

By now he knew she had resigned as CEO, and she was afraid he might call her directly. The comms system stayed silent, though. She was on her way to Tanoo, and her locator agent showed he was on his way as well. It reassured her somewhat, it meant he still had his wits. He had always liked seeing the full picture before he made a final decision, and she was counting on that to bring this through.

The award was unexpected, but it had given her the perfect opportunity to show Aeon what this was all about, and hopefully he would understand her motives and not try to talk her out of it. Please. It took all her strength now to keep the pieces of her tattered soul together. She was not even sure this venture would help her mend herself, but there was nothing else the universe could give her that would. When she had first laid eyes on Aramea’s debris field, she had realized she had never healed one bit.

What a stupid thing to do! She may not have been whole before, but seeing the pieces of her former life drifting through space had shattered her even more fiercely than the initial event. She had pictured the souls of billions of lost souls clinging to what was left of their home and collapsed right there on the spot. Now all that held her together were the fine strands of purpose this project had given her.

She needed this to work. It meant survival and redemption. As her ship was towed into station, she saw that Aeon was two jumps out. Forgive me, she thought as her pod began the flush sequence.

Aeon

As he made his way to the reception hall, he wondered if his attire was at all appropriate for the event. He had chosen this flowing dark ochre capsuleer cloak because it scared most people into not trying to engage in idle conversation with him. Of course his scowl largely contributed to that as well, but the people who knew the origins of the cloak would give him a wide berth. He did not want too much distraction while Loreena unfolded her plans, so it suited him just fine. He was not here to make friends.

The reception hall was not as joyous as he expected. There was an underlying solemnity and serious expressions on everyone’s faces except maybe the young fools attending their first ever reception. Loreena was nowhere to be seen, so he took his scowl to the other side of the hall. There were some curious and frightened glances, but no one made a move to talk to him. The master of ceremony who had sent him the invitation briefly nodded to him, and he returned her nod politely. He climbed up the stairwell in the back of the hall and took a seat in the deserted upper lodge.

His cheek was beginning to ache, so he relaxed his scowl. It had served him well, and the attention of the room was fixed the other way to the dais now anyway; the master of ceremony had started introducing the members present. His initial sweep of the room confirmed his assessment: the majority of the attendees were caldari. Loreena was caldari after all, but who were these people? They did not look like officials of any kind, and there was even a whole bunch of common folk to one side, easily recognizable by their garments.

One thing was certain though: Whatever this was about, it was not about joy.

Loreena

Her biggest fear was that someone would say something that would make her lose her composure. These were people who had suffered the same losses, so they had a deeper understanding of what this represented than outsiders. They were bound to see how pathetic she was, trying to put a puzzle the size of a planet back together. But then, everyone had his own way to cope. If this could be her way, her wretched existence might mean something again, regardless of what the universe thought of her.

She unruffled a few folds in her dress, and waited for the signal. She could hear the master of ceremony, Imulia Aeduin, giving her speech around the corner. She had given Loreena the opportunity to review it before she gave it, and Loreena had been touched by the woman’s insights into Areamea’s survivors’ plight. She did not have any amends to the script, it was more than adequate. On a level of consciousness she was awed by the fact that her project had hit such a response, but it did not feel right because she was not doing it out of kindness of heart. Or was she? She was beyond knowing what she really felt.

A light came on above her lodge’s doorframe, and she made her way out onto the dais next to Imulia Aeduin.

Aeon

As he had half expected, the dress she had chosen for the ceremony was entirely unceremonious. He did not linger on her attire though, as her haunted look pierced him through and through. The screen next to him had a close-up camera view of her, and the woman he saw there was an empty husk compared to the one he knew. He half rose in shock, looking over to the dais in disbelief. He resisted a sudden impulse to jump down the three meters to the floor and run over there. Of course, that would accomplish nothing. He slowly let himself sink back into the cushioned couch, his mind racing.

The speaker next to her he had recognized as being the Ammatar Consulate’s CFO, Imulia Aeduin. She had given a pretty good speech about the survivors of Aramea, which helped him place the context of the ceremony as well as give him the reason for the bleak mood. Ever since he had taken Loreena with him into Minmatar space he had been concerned with how she would cope with her loss, and although he had been with her a lot in the first years, their lives had led them to see each other less often. As far as he knew, she did not have any friends, but he had not worried about it too much anymore.

She was unrecognizable, even worse than after the blast that had robbed her of her family and her home in mere seconds. He watched her on the screen, oblivious to what Imulia was saying. Something must have triggered this breakdown… she looked like she was on the verge of collapse, but still strong enough to see through whatever she had planned. She gave a stealthy glance around the room and spotted him, then quickly averted her eyes again. He was sure no one else had seen the movement, she must have wanted to make sure he was there.

Then, finally, her plan was revealed.

Imulia Aeduin

She had always had a gift to sense emotions. Her parents had even sent her to a clinic specializing in psychic abilities when she was young, to make sure she was not psychic. Apparently she was not, otherwise she would most likely be in a Minmatar training facility today. Nevertheless, her so-called ability was a very useful tool to have. She had sensed the crowd’s feelings, and modulated the flow of her speech to their emotional response. It had worked very well, she had been able to touch them without bringing too many painful memories to the surface. Something unruffled her slightly however.

There was tension in the hall, very intense – and from only a few people. Her gift did not enable her to pinpoint individual sources, but she was sure that part of the tension came of that AeonOfTime character in the back of the hall. He was far enough from the rest of the crowd to allow her to sense it. She did not know enough about him to determine if he could be a problem, but she did not think so. Then there was the matter of Loreena Syrkos. As far as she could determine, she was a nervous wreck. It would not show that much to bystanders like the people in this crowd as she had herself under tight, even desperate control – but Imulia could feel it.

When Loreena came onto the dais, she saw AeonOfTime half rise to his feet, and a wave of concern hit her with all its might from his direction. There was obviously a strong connection between them, which made the whole situation even more mysterious. It was none of her business, but she felt curious nonetheless. She lived in a giant melting pot of emotions, and she felt drawn to strong emotions that rose out of the general mess. Emotions like these. She introduced Loreena to the crowd, even if it was not necessary – all the people present knew who she was.

It was a crazy idea, one that only a capsuleer could come up with – but Imulia thought it was a good one. Loreena had created a unique industrial process whose purpose was to salvage Aramea’s debris field for any information and items pertaining to the Aramean way of life and culture. The Ammatar Consulate had sponsored a dedicated office space transformed into a museum here on station, and already a few choice items were on display. The elder Aramean survivors had called her Aramea’s “Keeper of Knowledge”, and that was the decoration she was being awarded now. Her new corporation, Aramean Excavations, was there to fund the project and ensure the survival of the items even after the last Arameans were no more.

She wondered whether Loreena would find peace in her venture.

Aeon

So that’s what she had found to seek healing. To cling to the remnants of her shattered home, to get entangled in a web spun by memories and artefacts of a lost world. Aramean Keeper of Knowledge? Indeed! What good could this kind of archaeology possibly do? Trying to find clues of long lost empires was one thing, trying to revive an empire gone in a mere human lifetime sounded dreadful. He was torn between shaking her out of this folly and trying to understand what it was that she really sought.

For an instant, when Imulia put the decoration on her dress she had seemed genuinely happy, but it had only lasted a couple of seconds before it was replaced by the same haunted look. The ceremony over, people flocked around her, sharing thoughts and ideas, offering support. Of course the dead could not come back, but he could clearly see that these people were grateful that someone was safeguarding at least a token of their past. He saw relief on some faces, plain gratefulness on others. He decided to use the occasion to take his leave silently. He was convinced Loreena would not want to confront him now – besides, he was not entirely sure he wanted to either.

He went back to the hangar the station had assigned him. Standing before the hull of Skullsplitter Junior, he watched the ballet of cleaning drones polishing the hell out of his thruster tubes. He had a hunch he would not be boarding his ship now, somehow it did not feel right. He had a nagging sensation of having forgotten something, and he knew it would nag at him until he did something about it.

Until he finally decided to go back and save her.

Imulia

He was gone. She could feel it now, the absence of his peculiar flow of emotions had dissipated. She checked the back lodge, his seat was empty. He must have used the general commotion after the decoration to slip out unseen, what a peculiar personage. Her curiosity got the better of her, so after saying her goodbyes to everyone she went back to her quarters. She accessed the infogrid to find out who he was, and a few seconds later she was already back on her feet, running like a cheetah with a hellhound on its heels to the ship hangars.

How could everyone have been so blind? He was the savior of Aramea of course, the pilot who had managed to get his ship out and warn enough ships in-system to save thousands of civilians. He was the one who took Loreena under his wing, who had saved her from destruction. Everything was falling into place now in her mind… all their feelings, the whole operation were all designed for one hidden purpose. Only someone with her abilities could see this, and now she had to convince him to come back.

He had to save her. Again.

Loreena

The attention felt good. These people were actually proud of her, grateful for what she did for the memory of Aramea. She saw the light that shone in their eyes when they spoke of their own memories, of what they could do to help. She let it all wash over her, and for a few precious moments she felt alight with the purpose that infused her, a bridge over the unsoundable, dark depths below. When the feeling slowly subsided, she mustered her strength again because she knew she had to see Aeon now. She knew that his reaction would eventually decide her fate, even if he did not realize it. She did not know why his reaction was that important herself, it was difficult to stay sane with so many shrieking souls trailing behind her wherever she went. Pleading her to release them.

Aeon was gone however, as a quick glance to the back lodge and around the hall quickly confirmed. Her control wavered for a while, and she had to fight with renewed vigor to keep her sanity in check. She had no idea how long she could keep this up, she desperately needed his approval. Everything hinged on that now, pathetic as it may be. She was still lucid enough to know that she was too far down the road to madness to try and lift herself out of the pit now. All she could do was to try and ignore the fact that she may never recover from this. She clung to the faint hope that Aeon would understand her, but he had left. Soon there would be nothing left to cling to.

She was talking with one of the elder Arameans to distract her mind when Imulia came back into the hall, with Aeon by her side. Her heart leaped. She did not know what the significance of them appearing together was. In any other situation she would have been curious, but now she could not have cared less. The time had come.

This was when her fate would be sealed.

Aeon

He was on his way back to the reception hall when the CFO of the Ammatar Consulate came running to meet him. When she caught up with him, she was panting like she had just sprinted accross half of the station. It later turned out she actually did, but for the moment he watched her amusedly, waiting politely for her to catch her breath. There did not seem to be any particular urgency on her face besides her mad sprint, so he did not want to press her about the reasons of this odd interception.

As it were, she was here to change his mind about leaving without talking to Loreena, which confirmed his hunch that it would have been a bad idea. Imulia had a peculiar way to see through people, and even if the reception had given him the final piece of the puzzle with Loreena visiting the debris of her home, she was able to give him some additional valuable insights. His final assessment had been that she needed more help that he could give himself, but he saw now that he himself was the key to her salvation – as uncomfortable as that may make him.

This was unfamiliar territory… as a hardcore lone wolf, he rarely socialized with anyone. Syrkos Technologies was an exception, he valued the insights and contacts with pod pilots like himself. Loreena was a lone wolf herself, but it had been forced on her. She had never learned to cope with the loneliness – no wonder, considering the burden she had to live with all by herself. Visiting the debris field must have reawakened powerful old daemons, and the only person she knew and that she trusted was him.

He was not one to dwell on the past. Letting them drift apart had been a mistake, he had not taken the time to pay closer attention to her. He was so used to minimizing duties and dependencies that he had mistakenly included her in them. The harm was done though, so he concentrated on how he could salvage what was left of her.

It seemed their paths were destined to run along each other.

Imulia

AeonOfTime was more receptive to what she had to say than she had expected. She often underestimated people, it was one of her failings. He had obviously come to the same conclusions, albeit not for the same reasons. His history with Loreena was a long one, but he had not seen exactly how much she needed him to be present. Loreena’s burden was a heavy one to bear, she could feel it seeping out of her like an ever open wound. When she had stood next to her on the dais, there had been a moment when she had thought that dying in the blast on Aramea would have been merciful.

When she entered the hall with Aeon at her side, only Loreena paid any heed. No one but herself had apparently made the connection between Aeon and the so-called Hero of Aramea, which was not a bad thing in this situation. Loreena emanated joy and despair at the same time, a very unlikely combination. She accompanied Aeon up to the Dais, but stayed a few metres behind to give them a semblance of privacy.

She felt like a leech. The part of her that craved strong emotions was ecstatic – she had never enountered people before whose feelings radiated so intensely and in so many layers of complexity. The reasoning part in her felt ashamed for prying on them like a voyeur, even if it was not exactly comparable. She even found a small part of her wishing Loreena would come undone here and now, to see what kind of emotions that would trigger.

Sometimes she disgusted herself.

Aeon

It was surreal. No one here even noticed the struggle that was going on, the urgency and critical nature of their exchange. Bystanders were enaging in idle conversation, small talk, even discussing cooking recipes. While they were deciding their respective fates. It seemed appropriate for lone wolves to keep their inner battles hidden, but for once he wished it would come out into the open, that it would make a big scene instead of some undercover-style communication based on looks and cryptic words. He felt Imulia’s gaze on them, she was a weird one. But she was at least one bystander that knew at least part of what was being played here.

Loreena looked strangely happy and afraid at the same time, but he did not have the leisure to wonder how one could mix the two. His instincts were on edge as if he had a whole angel fleet chasing him, and everything he knew about her was being retrieved, analyzed and reprocessed in his mind. As he approached her, he read her expression, saw the subtle tightening of her cheekbones and arms as he came nearer, and he realized that whatever he was going to say had the potential force of killing her.

He instantly dismissed congratulating her on the decoration – the heart of the matter lay somewhere else. No, the fact that she had sprung the new corporation and the whole venture on him like this meant that was the key. But what could she need from him other than his support and approval? But surely she knew she did not need plots like this to have those?
Then it came to him in a sudden insight. Of course, it was so subtle yet painfully obvious…

He knew exactly what he needed to do.

Loreena

Time had stopped. Everything was a blur except for Aeon slowly approaching. She saw his face, coolly examining her, trying to see through her. He did not seem mad at all she asserted, the tension of the wrinkles on his face only betrayed concern. A flicker of hope ran through her, momentarily silencing the abyss behind her from which Aramea’s souls were shrieking up to her. She could not believe how far she had let herself sink, but once she had realized what was happening it had already been too late.

Foolishly she had believed that she would be able to tackle the daemons inside on her own, but they had all the patience the universe itself could bring to the table. They slowly gnawed away her defenses until they were rotted from within, ready to crumble at the smallest pressure. That was the kind of damage that a person cannot heal on his/her own. Aeon had been so close… but still she had kept going on her own, ever widening the trap beneath her feet. Poor Aeon, so much hinged on him now. She did not dare to speak lest her voice fail her now. It had to come from him. Yet again her life lay in his hands.

Their exchange lasted a good minute, but no words were spoken. Of all she had come to expect, this was not even on her list. It was so unlike him, but it transcended all her hopes. Even the billion aramean souls were awed into silence, her daemons in shock. All these years spent slowly eating her alive from within, gone in a single act.

A kiss.

Imulia

She knew she would never feel anything like that again in her lifetime. She had been literally blown away by the conflagration of the pent-up bundle of emotions the two of them had released with that embrace. As she came back to her senses, she realized everyone was looking at the odd couple. Some showed that they recognized Aeon now for who he was, others were just mesmerized by what had just happened. All of them knew they had witnessed something momentous however, even if they had none of the details.

She had always sneered at fairy tales with their true love kisses junk, but if anything could come close this was it. Somehow, knowing that in their technological age emotions as strong as these were still possible reassured her enormously. Of all the things Aeon could have done to heal her, this had definitely succeeded.

The hero of Aramea had just become a hero all over again.

Author’s notes

Yes, it is kind of a fairy tale. But who in truth does not want a fairy tale for himself? I like a good story, and the setting from Aeon and Loreena’s biographies begged for a sequel, or at least another chapter. Like everything in EVE, both are a bit broken by the harsh world they live in, but all hope is not lost. Yes, it is cheesy and a bit overdone, but we are living in a society where everything is slightly overdone so I am thinking it should not show too much 🙂

Anyway, if you are looking for references, I was inspired by the Gap Series by Stephen Donaldson, The Elenium by David Eddings and the movie The Princess Bride as well as EVE Online of course. All characters and places exist in the game, except for the fabled Aramea.

Captain’s log, supplemental

Loreena has gone rogue and created her own corporation, Aramean Excavations. The backstory above builds the foundation of a new venture, namely a small POS that I have been planning to set up for quite a while now. Because of Sytek’s rather unflattering standings accross the board, Loreena created Aramean Excavations so that her Ammatar standings would be good enough to set it up in high security space.

My initial plans have not changed much: it will be a small tower with just one or two labs to start with. As I do not know yet where this will take me, I prefer not to invest too much. With a setup like this, the running costs are very reasonable with approximately 45 million ISK per month for a regular small tower. Of course a faction tower would decrease the running costs a bit, but not enough to warrant investing in a faction tower. A Dread Guristas small tower will make you about 600 million ISK poorer (vs 150 for a regular one), for approximately 6 million ISK less fuel usage per month. That is definitely not an investment I will do right away 🙂

I testdrove a POS on SiSi pior to starting on this path, and while it all seemed quite convoluted I decided to do it on tranquility anyway. At the very least I will finally be able to finish off the ME and PE research on my BPOs without having to entrust them to a third party. Besides, I look forward to seeing how a POS can be useful for a lone wolf like myself in practice. Besides, it will be nice for any JVC alliance members that want to use it as well. Alliance usage is limited to PE (Production Efficiency) and ME (Material Efficiency) jobs, but if the POS should prove to be more than just a toy Sytek may just get its own POS as well.

For the time being, I am collecting all the POS components Loreena needs and deciding in which system I will eventually anchor it. Anchoring V and the Starbase Defense IV skills are trained, so she can both set it up and defend it if need be, although I am hoping it will not come to that anytime soon. Besides, in case of war I may just ninja unanchor the whole thing in the 24 hours before the war starts. That’s one of the perks of using a small tower with few installations attached. Unless CCP has some obscure laws in effect that do not allow unanchoring of POS structures in that timeframe… it would not in the least surprise me.

On a sidenote, Loreena is growing teeth in more ways than one… along with the new corporation she now flies a Dominix, a perfect addition to her extensive drone skills. Her battleship support skills are not that good yet, so no level 4 mission running solo but along with Aeon as a tanker, it is a beast of a drone carrier. And she has a lot in store for the future… she is on a skillplan that will take her all the way to a Kronos, which will be the final step in making her stand on her own two feet.

Then she will be able to save Aeon for a change.


Jan 25 2009

Day 834: AeonOfTime’s biggest ship yet

Putting aside the fact that the Orca in EVE Online has none of the aggressive traits of its earth-dwelling sea mammal counterpart, it is indeed good news. When the new ship was announced, I was very enthusiastic about a new ship class that was obviously targeted to gang mining as well as corporation support and transport. Aeon himself already had all the required skills being a part-time miner, but having him fly the ship would have defeated the purpose of gang mining with Loreena. She had zero mining skills to start with, so it was more logical timewise to have her train for it than for a Hulk. To make sure I was not plunging head-on into a fool’s errand, I set up a client to play on the Singularity server and had Aeon testdrive the ship. My first impression was that for an industrial ship, it looked pretty sleek. A short trip outside the station showed that it was slow, which was to be expected… The rest was pure bliss though. I was not able to test everything, but as there were a lot of other pilots on to test the ship the local chatter answered my initial needs for information.

I started Loreena to train all the prerequisites, which incidentally means she can now also fly mining barges, which is a plus. By the time she had all the required skills a few Orcas were available on market, but as usual with new items at prices beyond reason – some even above 1 billion (the BPO price). From then on, it meant waiting. A friend of mine active in capital ships production told me they would eventually settle around 450 mil depending on mineral prices, so I gave it my best shot at patience. I had been mining for quite a while before that, and liquidating some unused assets catapulted Aeon’s wallet up to an all-time record of 1.1 billion, which did not exactly help the patience bit. It was only about finding my breaking point from there.

I observed the price evolution, and the decision was quickly made when I saw one for 630 million ISK. I made a few inter-regional pricechecks and eventually bought the ship right in Lustrevik, next door to Syrkos Technologies‘ headquarters. A trip to Jita would only have saved a few million, so I decided those 20+ jumps were not worth the trouble. Still quite a ways off the 450 mil mark, but it was good enough for me. Besides, having all that ISK in the wallet made me nervous, with all the other shiny stuff I could buy. Incidentally, it made me realize that Heimatar is quite a competitive market compared to Jita. Rens is often cheaper for tech 2 modules than Jita, if not on par with going prices there. Not enough to make a lot of profit, but enough to make it feel good to live in the area and know Jita is not the holy grail.

There was something thrilling about buying something that big after the Abaddon almost a year ago. I logged in Loreena, and checked the price three times to make sure there was the right number of zeroes in it (not that a missing zero would have been an issue). Then the market deliveries window refreshed and there it was, together with some Frozen Food, Frozen Plant Seeds, a bit of Wheat and 70 Tourists that were probably amazed by the huge packaged ship. I did not check if any of the frozen seeds disappeared, but I for one would surely have made myself some popcorn to watch the ship being assembled. For the first time in quite a while, christening the ship felt meaningful, and reminded me of the joy from my first acquisitions. After an albeit impatient solemn moment, Loreena was in space in the “Tatonka” (from the root Native American, meaning “large bull”) and en route to Sytek’s Lustrevik headquarters for a short fitting session. After whipping on a hasty fitting, Loreena warped out to an empty moon and together with a few corp members, we tested the ship’s functions.

Impressive, dr Watson

First off, the ship is huge. As usual in EVE you won’t realize this to its full extent until you see some other ships next to it – even battleships are relatively small compared to the Orca. As a mostly highsec pilot, it is refreshing to have a “heavyweight” ship other than the existing freighters allowed to fly around there. Especially since the Rorqual and all the battle-oriented capital ships are restricted to low- and nullsec. Beyond the mere aesthetic points, what seduced me is primarily the solid mining gang support. A lot of players thinking of buying an Orca crunch numbers like how long they will have to mine to get back the cost of the ship, but I have a much more pragmatic approach: I take decisions by gut. Otherwise I would probably not have bought it, and missed a lot of fun. Friends of the pew-pew will doubtlessly wonder behind which asteroid the fun in this might be hiding, but sitting in a belt with that ship is just awesome. Loreena keeps it within 1.500 metres of Aeon’s Hulk, that way Aeon can move his mined ore directly into the Orca’s corporation hangar without even having to drop a jetcan. Try stealing that ore 🙂

Here is a quick overview of the Orca:

  • 250% tractor beam range bonus (~71 km), 1000 m/s speed
  • 500% survey scanner range bonus
  • 5% cargo bonus per level
  • 3% gang modules bonus per level
  • Transportation: 81.588 m3 with 2 x Expanded Cargohold II and 3x Cargohold Optimization I rigs at my current ICS II
  • Transportation: 40.000 fixed corporation hangar space on top of raw cargo space
  • Transportation: 400.000 m3 for assembled ships with rigs (so up to BC size)
  • Full-fledged command ship, can fit all gang modules
  • Can fit three gang modules out of the box
  • Corporate hangars that can be accessed by up to 10 members simultaneously
  • Fitting and storing / undocking ships in space with the ship maintenance bay
  • Docking/undocking ships in space
  • Not easy to gank (10.750 Shield / 6.900 Armor / 46.000 Structure without skills)
  • Limitation: Ships in ship maintenance bay can only carry charges in their cargohold, no regular cargo
  • Limitation: Maintenance bay can only carry assembled ships

The gang modules make Aeon’s often short mining sessions a lot more profitable (with a theoretical maximum yield bonus of 45 to 50% depending on skills and implants). There are three Mining Foreman modules:

Of course these bonuses are subject to the related Leadership skills and ship bonuses. Loreena currently gets 10.6% from all three with Mining Director V. On Tatonka I use 2 x Laser Optimization and 1 x Field Enhancement as I have no need for the capacitor bonus. I could go for all-out cycle duration, but being able to mine up to 18 kms away without moving around is worth it. What I also like about the ship is that it is not an easily gankable ship. You need a lot of firepower to take one down even without any defensive modules installed. I am not keen on losing the ship though, so following some recommendations I always have a Damage Control II fitted and active. On top of that, as I do not use any survey modules or midslots at all I fitted a permarun Large Shield Booster II. Handy to tank rats… and more.

Of course it all depends on how you use the ship. My case is pobably not very widespread, with only one Hulk in the mining gang 🙂 With a ship like that, I prefer to be safe than sorry. You should not fly around with all your assets in the hold anyway, that is a gank waiting to happen. When I need to transport things I try to keep the total value not too high, and NEVER do it on autopilot. I have been ganked once before that way, it was a lesson well learned – but I digress, back to the topic at hand. Battleclinic has no way to post a fitting for ORE ships, so here it is the old way:

[lowslots]
1 x Damage Control II
1 x Power Diagnostic Unit II

[medslots]
3 x Cap Recharger II
1 x Large Shield Booster II

[highslots]
2 x Mining Foreman Link – Laser Optimization
1 x Mining Foreman Link – Mining Laser Field Enhancement

[rigs]
3 x Cargohold Optimization I

Beyond mining

Trust people to use it for everything it is NOT made for, but as a command ship the Orca is not limited to mining tasks alone. You can fit any of the available gang modules, and some players successfully use the ship as missioning support. It has a 75 m3 drone bay, which means it can actively participate in fights if need be, and it’s a great salvager with that 70 km tractor range and increased speed. It can carry all the ammo you will ever need and you can even store ships for different tasks in it to swap around in space. Want to change hardeners for the next room? You do not even have to dock. It is not exactly what I would do with it, but it is always good to think outside of the box… Which is exactly what some pirates did when the Orca was released. As far as I know they used a small glitch that allowed the ship to transport -10 security status characters into highsec, and would warp into belts, undock with ships from the maintenance hangar and gank some unsuspecting miners. That glitch has been fixed since, but it further demonstrates that as boring and repetitive that mining can get, you should always keep your guard up.

Well I think this about wraps the subject for now, I wrote a lot more than I started out for. As always, feel free to comment. I would love to hear how you use your Orca, or what you are planning to do when you eventually get one.

On a sidenote, Aeon really has to train Veldspar Processing sometime soon… 2 years into the game and he still cannot mine Veldspar properly, and that with the current market prices! Chribba, if you hear me, I know – I’m not worthy 🙂 Seeing how fast I can strip a belt on my own now, it is kind of depressing to have to leave all the veldspar asteroids behind. The ship and gunnery skills have gotten a lot of love lately, so I think it is only fair to focus back on mining for a month or two.

I have posted few screenshots of late, so here is a catchup collection!


Mar 10 2008

Day 513: Pax Nemesis succombs to Saboteurs

I won’t keep the suspense hanging for long: Pax Nemesis III (Abaddon) is gone. Last night as Aeon accepted a level 4 mission to intercept some saboteurs, I made the mistake of not checking the damage I had to fit armor hardeners for. But that was not the sole problem – as always, it was really a sum of things that lead to this unfortunate turn of events. But before I explain in detail, let me make a brief summary of what has happened in the last weeks. I was very busy in real life, and did not have the time to write – you can always skip this part and come back to it later if you like.

Quick heads-up
After my level 4 preparation post, I made a trip to nullsec (I have a log entry in the works for that). My good friend Serotta Ortot let me fly his Armageddon there for ratting, and he was using active armor hardeners on it. I was baffled by how effective the setup was, and when I went back to empire I refitted Pax Nemesis III to use an active armor tanking setup. On top of that, Loreena was already within reach of an Exequror, the small brother of the Oneiros. I bought her one, and so it happened that I tried running a level 4 mission again. Aeon was using 4 active mission-specific hardeners, a Damage Control II and a large armor repairer in a permarun setup with eight large beam laser turrets (not the tachyons anymore, they use way too much capacitor). While the DPS was obviously not the same with less powerful turrets, the tank itself seemed impenetrable. At one point, the ship was tanking six battleships and they could not even dent the armor.

Since then, I have run quite a few level 4 missions without any forseeable trouble at all. I ended up tackling them without Loreena, as the tank was good enough to handle anything the missions threw at me.

Pax Nemesis III’s last battle
Probably over-confident in the new tanking setup, I warped Aeon into “Intercept the Saboteurs“. Everything went as planned, and I did not take Loreena along as I had already done the mission alone before. As I mentioned, I use two active hardeners for each of the main mission damage types: Kinetic and Thermal in this case. I must have misread that, because I put in the kinetic hardeners, but left the explosive hardeners on. Once in the mission, the tank was holding nonetheless by pure brute force. Had the Serpentis Megathron not gotten within range, Aeon would have made it. That ship’s blasters started tearing the armor apart slowly, but I was not especially concerned as I was still busy taking out the cruisers to bring down the overall DPS. My drones were dispatching the frigates on their own, so the situation was completely under control.

After a short while, I started to realize that was not entirely the case. Only two cruisers were left, and their DPS was not likely to change much. I switched fire to one of the nearest battleships, a Core Admiral or some such, and even set the drones on him. He died pretty fast, but to my dismay it did not make any difference. I must have been extra sluggish, because only then did I realize it was the Megathron that was the big damage dealer here. HE was the one that was profiting from the thermal weakness in my armor tank. I think by the time I switched targets to take him out, Pax Nemesis III’s armor hitpoints were already down to thirty-five percent. Logically, I aligned the ship for warp, made the drones dock and warped. Warped….? No. “What the HELL?”

Coming out of the comfort of months of level 3 missioning, I still had that last resort escape possibility of warping out in mind. Level four mission bring new dangers with them, including warp scrambling ships. Probably needless to say, but when the ship would not warp, I knew I was done for. I logged Loreena in on the second PC, but she was parked in Rens BTT of all places, four jumps out. There was not way she could be there on time, and my desperate attempts to take out the warp scrambling ships failed at recognizing which ones were scrambling me at all. Panic transformed into dismay, strengthened by my dismissal of thermodynamics as useless a while back. I do not know if overheating could have given me the edge I needed, but it was another drop in the bowl of dismay.

In the end I think the ship put up more than an honorable performance, going down all guns blazing to the last second. The armor repairer managed to put in several cycles, delaying the structural hits long enough for the drones to cut down a few more frigates – but still not the right ones. After that I sat there in my pod, eyeing the surrounding ships with a vengeful look. Had my eyes been fitted with laser turrets, I think I could have destroyed a small planetoid. Except I was more mad at my own sorry self for being so utterly careless, bordering on the plain stupid.

Pax Nemesis “X”
So I sat there in my pod, pondering what to do next. The corp wallet was at sixty million, not enough to buy a new battleship. I noticed the flashy mail icon, and checked the insurance message. The ship was not insured of course, and I was expecting a condescending, mocking note telling me I should have had the ship insured, gna gna gna. To my surprise, the default insurance payout was 79 million. Now that was more like it! 130 million should get me a new battleship, if not an Abaddon. The fittings were another matter… I decided I had to start liquidating some of the assets I had stashed so far.

Loreena cancelled most of the running buy orders to free up another twenty million, and shipped all the salvage and sellable modules to Rens. In the meantime, Aeon was already on his way to the Amarr trade hub, Oris EFA, as buying the ship and turrets was going to be cheaper there. The salvage sales had the effect of finding a fabled hidden treasure – when I had finished selling everything, the corporation wallet was at a new record of 450 million… nearly half a billion! Not only was I going to be able to replace the lost ship, even fittings and rigs were possible 🙂

I spent a good hour with EFT (Eve Fitting Tool) to come up with an improved setup for the ship, laid out for better survivability (I included the complete fitting in the extended part of this log entry if you want to see the details). Once I knew what I wanted, Aeon bought a new Abaddon and promptly christened it “Pax Nemesis X”. Already having gone through three versions of the name, I chose something a little more final. If I ever lose this ship, I will have to change the name. Fitting it was pretty quick, as everything I needed was available on-station, and quite a bit cheaper than Rens too: 202 million for the ship, modules and rigs as compared to about 220 had I bought all that in Rens.

Righteous revenge
Now was the time to finish what I had started, and at the same time test the slightly modified ship setup. Aeon made the twenty jump trip back to the mission system, Isendeldik, and this time Loreena was there too just in case. At warp-in, the cloud of enemy ships was all around at about 4 kilometres. This meant that the Megathron was going to be able to lay down its max DPS instantly, but I had the right hardeners fitted this time. The DPS was still pretty high, but the new tank held on its own. With three Auxiliary Nano Pump I rigs I expected no less. I was able to finish the mission easily, and even though I regretted losing the ship in the first place it could have been worse. As the saying goes, everything that does not kill you makes you stronger…

Anyhow, it was an interesting evening to say the least. Loreena will be Aeon’s wingman from now on when I run level 4 missions, regardless of how well I am prepared. I am NOT going to lose another ship to a mission – not if I can help it, anyway 🙂

Pax Nemesis X fitting

High Slots
8 x Dual Modulated Heavy Energy Beam I

Med Slots
4 x Cap Recharger II

Low Slots
1 x Damage Control II
1 x Capacitor Power Relay II
2 x Armor XX Hardener II, for primary mission damage (XX = Kinetic/EM/Thermal/Explosive)
2 x Armor XX Hardener II, for secondary mission damage
1 x Large ‘Accomodation’ Vestment Reconstructer I

Rigs
3 x Auxiliary Nano Pump I


Nov 23 2007

Day 405: Jumping on the heavy assault bandwagon

Somehow with all the level 4 and 5 skills Aeon has been training for the last months, I completely lost track of what he could do. He trained up all base support and gunnery skills, and sometime lately I fired up EVEMon, and realized Aeon was only four days away from Heavy Assault Ships. He only needed to train Assault Ships to level IV and Spaceship Command to level V, so I started on that path directly. Currently using Chawagga (my Amarr cruiser, Maller) to run complexes and do some ratting, the prospect of using a Zealot for that task was just too appealing. It seemed to me that I had gotten to Heavy Assault Ships all of a sudden, but after a little bit of research, I saw it was just an illusion. Getting a new character to Heavy Assault ships takes a lot of time, a I had just forgotten about how far Aeon has come. You can see how hard it is to get to Heavy Assault Ships by looking at the sole requirements to fly one:

(Race) Frigate IV
(Race) Cruiser V
Engineering V
Mechanic V
Assault Ships IV
Weapon Upgrades V
Spaceship Command V
Heavy Assault Ships I

For one of my throwaway newbie characters, that comes out at about 113 days without training anything else… Meaning you will be able to fly one, but not outfit it correctly. You will still be missing skills for gun turrets, defense systems, power systems and co. It’s a massive undertaking to get there, but then you usually have way too much other stuff to do in the game to really notice 🙂

The question of “was it worth it?” is one you may ask, but it is difficult to give that a straight answer. I did not train specifically for Heavy Assault Ships, but I trained the prerequisites because they are needed for a lot of other ships and make me better at the ships I already use. In that sense, the skills invested will never be lost – especially Engineering, Mechanic, Weapon Upgrades and Spaceship Command. The question should rather be “are heavy assault ships good?”. Well on that matter, I have a few clues already. Being specialized in Amarr ships, I decided to get a Zealot: it has bonuses to armor resistances as well as for medium laser turrets. The alternative, the Sacrilege, is a pure missile gunboat, and Aeon only has 65K skillpoints in missiles… It has a sweet tank, however.

The skill Heavy Assault Ships itself cost 35 Mil ISK, and the Zealot was at 92 million ISK in Rens. With only 32 million in the Syrkos Corporation’s wallet and 10 in Aeon’s pockets I moved my operations back to my mining system to grind some rocks. When it was finally time, I had enough funds to afford both the ship and the skill itself. To avoid paying the horrendously overpriced Rens prices on Amarr ships, I sent Aeon to the Amarr system in the Domain region. There I paid “only” 80 mil for the ship, still effectively emptying my corp’s wallet again 🙂

I had already flown an Omen, the Zealot’s tech 1 cousin, but what strikes you first is that this ship looks a lot more polished. That, and one look at the fitting screen tells you it is indeed a powerhouse. Eager to outfit it, I let Aeon take the 26-jumps route back to my main offices. Once there, I put on a passive armor hardener, some capacitor support modules, four tech 2 medium lasers, undocked, and scanned my home system for complexes. Luckily, there were two, one Angel Cartel base and one drone hive. Great to compare this setup with that of Chawagga, which I usually use for running complexes. Needless to say, it’s like swatting flies with a sledgehammer – it was like pop-pop-pop-wammo 😉

Getting more confident with the use of the ship, I started using it for a few of the easier level 3 missions – and was surprised by the ease with which it cut through everything, from cruisers to tech 2 frigates. That medium lasers bonus really makes a difference. I use a passive armor tank setup, and have fitted a first Capacitor Control Circuit to free one additional low slot previously taken by a Capacitor Power Relay II. Only missions where you get a lot aggression from enemy ships are any trouble, because the tank cannot take it. I mean, I only have one Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II fitted, so it is not a real tank either. I prefer having additional support modules in for more DPS and better frigate handling than stretching things out with a better tank, as least as long as I can afford it. If the mission is too intensive for Dark Horizons, I simply revert to Pax Nemesis III.

I even get the impression that Dark Horizons performs better than the Aeonizer (Amarr Battlecruiser, Harbinger), but I may be wrong. I have not used that ship in quite a while now, and I think I should try it again sometime just to make sure. With only four turret slots, running missions with Dark Horizons is a bit slower than with Pax Nemesis III, but it is more fun 🙂

I’ll post a detailed fitting later on.


Aug 22 2007

Day 312: Taking mining one notch further

After finding that nice new macrofreeTM 0.7 security system to mine in, I decided it was high time to upgrade Aeon’s mining capabilities. I made him mine like a madman for two days, and called Loreena in with Sayathos – which has recently been “pimped” to carry 22.000 m3 – to refine and haul the whole stash. With all that Plagioclase and Omber, the corporation’s wallet ended up with a healthy 125 Mil. It took five hauling runs with 36 jumps each to bring all back to Rens. During the process, I realized how expectations can rise over time: exactly 259 days ago, Aeon was hauling 18 Rifters using a Hoarder, for a maximum of 2 Million ISK profit 🙂

The aim was to reach 150 million to buy a Hulk, but fortunately that was not necessary – when I rechecked the market, there was one for sale in Pator for a stunning 125 million. Needless to say, I bought it before anyone else would notice (incidentally, they currently sell for about 110 million). As always Aeon had to wait a full day before he could fly the ship, as Exhumers III had to finish training – but then he flew to Pator, christened the ship and took it on its maiden voyage. I called it Anamoth Lael, and it went directly to Aeon’s mining spot to relieve Natayos of its duties.

I have to say, I had always been a little sceptic as to why the Hulk should be that much better than a Covetor. It has the same amount of turret hardpoints, so only the additional Exhumers bonus does something for the mining amount… But it is much better in all other aspects. It has great shield resists, a real capacitor that does not deplete entirely when activating the three laser turrets, and three more medium slots for defensive modules like a shield booster and hardener. The real “clou” is the cargo capacity though: 8.000 m3… No wonder macrominers do not jetcan anymore – with two Expanded Cargohold IIs and two Cargohold Optimization II rigs, a Hulk can easily be upgraded to about 16.000 m3!

Anyway, after the operation the Syrkos Technologies Corporation was broke again, a mere 1.5 million in its wallet. It is going to take some serious mining again to get that back up, as well as some missioning. A shame Aeon cannot run level 4 missions yet – the pay, loot and salvage are much better than level 3 missions.


Jul 4 2007

Day 264: The shield tank of doom

…at least as close as I can currently get to one.

But first, let us go back a few days to when Aeon finally had the skills to fly his newly acquired Maelstrom: I sent him to pick it up in Loguttur, and I must say I was more than a bit excited – this is my very first battleship! Aeon christened it “Pax Nemesis” there on the spot, and I took it back to Oremmulf for a testdrive in a few level 2 missions.

Yeah, I know. Swatting flies with a sledgehammer and all – that ship packs a hell of a punch. Feeling boldened beyond reason, I checked that great site eve-agents.com for a good highsec level 3 agent, and found one just two jumps away. It took a little while, but I moved all my missioning ships and stuff to the new NPC station and decided it was high time Aeon joined some more serious action.

I have to admit, I was scared shitless when I warped into the first mission. Aeon had at least 160 Mil worth of ship and modules around his pod, and I did not even check the mission info. Fortunately, that “Intercept the Saboteurs” mission was not difficult. The cruisers and frigates were rather easily dispatched.

Things got a lot worse, though. The next mission I got offered was “The Blockade“, notorious for being a hard nut if you do not handle it right. I took the time to check out the mission info first, but still managed to handle it all wrong… I actually triggered all three waves at once. Soon I was flooded in cruisers, including more than a few Arch xxxx ships (T2) that have uncanny damage resitances. I had to warp out pretty quickly, and soon also had to realize that I would not be able to finish this mission on my own. I tried everything I could, but I simply did not have enough time to kill at least one of those cruisers between warping back in at full shields and warping back out before taking too heavy damage.

Fortunately one of my buddies from RMS was in-system, and kindly helped me with his Hurricane by dispatching them while I played bait 🙂 Since then I have modified my fitting a bit again, and invested in some shield supporting rigs to even the odds – the result being a shield tank that now works even better than I expected. I will post the current fitting details a little later.

Anyway, doing level 3 missions is really a lot more rewarding than level 2 ones – the pay is a lot better, as are loyalty point rewards. Salvage and loot is better too, so it is definitely worth the trouble. I have not gotten the level 3 equivalent of “Human Cattle” yet, and I must say I am not exactly looking forward to it. But then, I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

On the obligatory sidenote, I switched to a Slasher Minmatar cruiser for looting the missions, it has 500 m3 cargo space and is still quite fast with an afterburner (about 650 m/s). I have three Salvager I and three Tractor Beam I modules on there, so salvaging gets really easy. Naereth was wasted on salvaging anyway, you might say – but then I do not care as long as it gets the job done 🙂

Godspeed to y’all!


Jun 18 2007

Day 247: Adventures collected

How the 120 Mil were spent

A lot has happened lately, and it is a bit difficult to put it into readable form. Where to begin? The best is probably how the Syrkos Corporation’s wallet reached a historic high of 120 Mil, and how Aeon spent it all within a minute. I was really quite proud of that achievement, having earned every single penny mission running, manufacturing, mining and selling materials, reprocessing loot, trading and whatnot.

Someone in my corp chat mentioned that he is now building Maelstroms, and I had reviewed the minmatar battleship specifications a while earlier: the Maelstrom is designed for shield tanking. It is a perfect match for Aeon’s skills, so I asked if I could buy one. Some 120 Mil ISK later Aeon was the proud owner of his first battleship. A few moments later he was also a quite disappointed pod pilot – he could not train that shiny Minmatar Battleship skillbook yet because I had forgotten that he still needed to train Minmatar Cruiser to level IV. He is still looking at a 3 days long wait until he can actually fly the thing :

From what I heard about the maelstrom I think I will not regret my choice. With the available capacitor and shields it will make an impressive improvement over my current battlecruiser fitting. Hopefully I will even be able to start some level 3 missions to increase the time to ISK ratio a bit. Aeon will have to continue improving on his laser skills which I had put on hold (yet again) for that though.

Now the aim has to be at about 200 Mil so that I can finally buy a Hulk for Aeon and give those blasted macrominers a run for their ore. Ideally, Loreena Syrkos should train for one too so she can team up with Aeon and mine the ore away under their rotten feet…!

Encounters and discoveries

Peter from lactic-haze contacted me in-game lately, and has been a good friend by showing me a lot of interesting things about EVE. It is almost as though he wants to make my education 🙂 As soon as he was back in highsec1) he invited me to a complex, as I had never been to one yet. About 8 jumps later, Aeon and Serotta Ottot were in a 0.5 system and warping into the complex – wich had unfortunately just been cleared and was being salvaged. Peter nevertheless recklessly scouted out the remaining two rooms in his shuttle (!), nearly getting blasted in the process. One of the rooms had only a few ships left, so Aeon ventured in.

The few ships happened to be some cruisers, three battleships and a bunch of frigates… I guess that lowsec conditions you to another kind of terminology – I would not have called that a few ships 🙂 I was able to kill a few frigates, and the shield was holding surprisingly well. The raw destruction of the battleships’ missiles were more than a match for Crimson Skies, however. Aeon warped out, but I knew I would be back soon 🙂

I realized that complexes are nothing more than public missions where anyone can jump in anytime. No mission pay, but rather good bounties with those battlecruisers and battleships. Now that Aeon has salvage skills, it should be profitable to combine all that – Peter made about 6 Mil in a morning just clearing the complex.

I went back to the complex alone a while later, and cleared the first room on my own with Crimson Skies until only the Gist Commander battleship was left. I had him into armor when some jerk jumped in and took the kill. I would have torn him to pieces if I could – that was my first battleship…!! It is the way of the game though – respect is nice, but not mandatory. You have to expect stuff like that if you venture into complexes2).

Dusting off a minmatar classic

Peter gave me his old Cyclone as he apparently really hated that ship 🙂 I accepted it joyfully, as it has a reputation to be a good shield tanker with its 4 medium slots that can be used to fit shield hardener modules and boosters. It also has a specific shield boosting bonus like the Maelstrom which none of the other battlecruisers I tested so far had. I flew out to Loguttur in a shuttle, and docked at the station. I considered torching the hangar bay manager “Scotty” for making me wait 11 seconds before I could change ships, but ate some chocolate instead.

The Cyclone really is a Minmatar classic ship that only a few pilots still take out – maybe also because of its rather weird look. Then again, the minmatar style is not exactly known for its eyecandy (except maybe the Hurricane)… Anyway I was finally allowed to board, and named it Svaryell. I undocked and made my way back to my homebase to do some fitting.

For the fitting, I pretty much moved the same setup I had on Crimson Skies to Svaryell with slight adjustments: the Cyclone only has 5 turret hardpoints, so I filled the remaining 3 with light missile launchers. In the mid slots, I added an additional shield hardener and in the lows I kept my array of power diagnostic systems.

I did a few missions, and I must say I quite like this ship. Its design is not so shocking after all, I particularly like the large rear with that array of propulsion thrusters. The front is weird, it somehow reminds me of a train (a bit like the Wreathe) – but I like it. I ran a few missions, and so far it has proven to be a good match for Crimson Skies and the Aeonizer. It definitely has a superior shield tank, but otherwise it is true that the Hurricane is more fun to fly. Nevertheless, the impression of indestructibility the Hurricane gives is more pronounced with this ship.

I like change, so Svaryell is not going to have time to collect dust. The next time I get the Human Cattle or The Blockade missions, I will really test that shield tank. Especially since Peter gave me about a zillion directives on how to fit it, I think I will have a very good addition to my ships collection.

Salvaging? Yes, but blitz-style please.

Peter convinced me to train for salvaging, so now Aeon has started salvaging his mission runs. Quite profitable occupation indeed – even if the prices will eventually drop quite a bit still with all the people who now have the skills and flood the markets with components.

I had refrained from training for salvaging until now because I do not have much time to play – I like to maximize the time I spend missioning, and most of the time I do not loot much anymore. Especially since I moved from speed-based combat tactics to close-up combat with shield tanking, looting the wrecks has become too tedious. Switching ships just to loot 2 or three wrecks does not cut it either.

When I had the salvaging skills, I outfitted Naereth with a tractor beam, three salvager modules and a cargo expander. Now I run the missions, switch to Naereth and salvage like a madman at 1600 m/s. As the salavage components are all very light, cargo space is not a problem – maybe on big missions like Human Cattle, but then a small trip back to base is done in a flash too…

…practical, fun AND profitable. That’s the way I like to play 🙂

1) Apparently, the most difficult thing about lowsec is getting in and out of it, as Peter recounts

2) In Revelations II which is deployed as I write this, complexes will be more dynamic, and thus a lot less prone to the so-called “farming” by players that camp in these complexes and do them over and over again. I look forward to that 🙂 (See the patchnotes)