Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bookmarking and evasive actions, aka dancing on fire

One of the most precious commodities in EVE Online, especially when either living in or having to travel through Low-sec, Null-sec, and even W-space, is intelligence, more commonly refered to as intel. Whatever the type of flying one does in the game, knowing where friends and foes are, where they're going and what they're doing can be vital in either getting to a destination safely, or to find them and utterly destroy them. But how do you go about flying in regions you don't know anything about, or where you know there are enemies but have no idea who is where and doing what? Enter one of the most interesting activities in EVE: scouting.

As promised a couple posts ago, I will do my best to explain how I go about travelling in relative safety in Null-sec space, especially in enemy infested regions where everybody and their cats and dogs would like nothing better than to pin your name on their killboard. Their job is to make sure you get as little intel on them as possible, while your job is too collect as much intel as possible and do your best to live to tell about it.

The clone

Before you even think about plying the more dangerous space lanes, make sure of two things: 1- make sure your clone is updated because there is always a chance that you'll get caught at some point, and 2- make sure you are not in a clone full of expensive implants, for the exact same reason. It's enough that you're about to fly into a potential giant fireball, but it would be stupid to bring a ton of TNT with you.

The ship

This is where opinions may start to differ, but I'll go with what I'm comfortable with. The three rules I follow when I choose a ship to fly into danger: fast, maneuverable, and cheap. Of course cheapness is a variable factor but the main rule is that you can not only afford to lose the ship but you can also turn around and buy 4 more without even blinking. Some people may also want to fly something cloaky like a Covert Ops or a Stealth Bomber, but for myself I usually choose a ship that a lot of people love to hate, the Claw interceptor:

          [Claw, GV27]
        Overdrive Injector System II
        Overdrive Injector System II
        Inertia Stabilizers II
        Damage Control II

        1MN MicroWarpdrive II
        Warp Scrambler II

        200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
        200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
        200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet EMP S
        'Arbalest' Rocket Launcher I, Caldari Navy Foxfire Rocket

        Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
        Small Projectile Collision Accelerator I

It's one of the fastest ships in the game and it has enough punch, even though the goal here is not to get kills, but to whizz all over the place. Other good choices if you want to fly cheaper are the Vigil, Slasher, Atron, Executioner and Condor. Yes, I am biased towards Minmatar ships because, well, in rust I trust :) But before you undock, make sure you have access to the maps of the regions you'll be travelling through. This is most important if you have never travelled in the said regions, but even when you have a good idea of the jump lines I strongly recommend that you use the maps at all times. Being old school, I have printed copies of Ombey's 2D maps, but if you use a second screen you can open either Ombey's, use Dotlan maps, use Battleclinic's EVEmap, whatever rocks your boat. I don't recommend using the in-game map or alt-tabbing betwen the game and the maps I mentionned because when you'll be out in enemy territory you'll need all your attention on piloting.

From the frying pan into the fire

After you have decided on a region to explore - I'll go by Null-sec examples - the first thing I do is set the entry point system as destination. Usually those entrances go from Low-sec into Null-sec, but there are some cases like PF-346 in Syndicate or HED-GP in Catch where the entrance is from a totally safe Hi-sec system into deadly Null-sec. Try to avoid those if at all possible as they are camped the majority of the time; there are usually other ways into those regions. Unless there are massive gangs about, flying through Low-sec should not be much of a problem because you cannot get bubbled, and ships usually camping Low-sec gates will take forever to lock a frigate. Of course there is such a thing as remote sensor boosting but it is rarity more than the norm.

But before you make that final jump into Null-sec, take the time to get acquainted with your surroundings, and by that I mean looking at the maps to know how the surrounding systems are laid out. I even recommend that the bookmarking party start here. First, make some safespots that are not in line with gates or celestials, but without getting overboard. Just tell yourself that no safespot is absolutely safe but in a fast ship you can always make them on the fly. The way I do it is I warp towards a random planet (usually the farthest one) at 70 or 100km and make a bookmark in mid-warp, then warp to it after getting to the planet. I then edit the bookmark into something readable like "Khabi midwarp safe 1". I know, this is usually far from safe. So I then warp towards another planet, do another bookmark in mid-warp which becomes "safe 2", then warp between the two bookmarks to create "safe 3". There is no such thing as too many bookmarks in a system so make as many as you want.

Now that you can sit in the system in relative safety, it's time to check what the entrance gate looks like from your side, but the principle will be the same around every gate you will encounter during the trip through the unknown. What I do is warp to the gate at 100km, and as soon as I come out of warp I point my ship in a random direction but towards empty space, not a planet, gate or station. I then turn on the MWD and let my ship's speed do its magic. At around the 200km point away from the gate I make a bookmark which I would name "Khabi ongrid tactical 7Q gate". I then make a slight course correction with my ship and keep on burning away. When I'm sure that the gate is now off-grid I stop my ship, make the bookmark, and call it "Khabi offgrid tactical 7Q gate". When flying in Null-sec it's good practice to warp to gate tacticals like this instead of straight gate-to-gate so as to evade being caught my Mobile Warp Disruptor bubbles.

So from now on, when you would enter the Khabi system before jumping into 7Q-8Z2, you would first warp to one of your safe spots, then maybe to a second one if hostiles are on your tail, and then to the off-grid tactical off the 7Q gate to find out if there's a welcoming commitee, or scouts that would warn people on the other side of an incoming hostile. All is clear, you warp to the gate, jump, and congratulations you are now in space you've never been to before and bad things could happen any second. When the other side does not have a welcoming commitee, get busy making bookmarks like you just did, except maybe a bit faster because situations can change quick in Null-sec. Also, get tacticals off of every gate as quick as possible. This is most important in hub systems like VOL-MI in Curse. If you're lucky you'll be able to go a certain number of systems without hindrance, but at some point the great demon Murphy will rear its ugly head: you jump in, the system loads, and there's 20+ reds on your overview and an interdictor bubble as gone up. Now the real fun starts!

It's getting hot down here

The worst thing to do now is panic. Of course things have to be done quick because everybody will pull out their drones to try and decloak you, but let's freeze time a bit and look at what can be done. For evasion purposes, one of my overview tabs has planets on it, so if my overview is not yet displaying this I make sure it does. I then zoom out the view of my ship so I can see the entire bubble and the placement of the enemy fleet. I need to look for the closest edge of the bubble; hopefully it leads away from the enemy, if not I start invoking various gods. Deep breath... double click to start moving and thus decloak, turn on the MWD, select a planet on the overview, and spam the warp button for all it's worth. If someone has a single point on you, don't panic, your speed should get you out of range fairly quickly. If you are scrambled and your MWD has shut off, the base speed should be enough to carry you out at somepoint but usually this is a bad sign. If you get webbed you may be about to meet your maker but the main thing is this: never give up! Of course having a hostile gang in local like this will disrupt your current bookmark session slightly but if you want to get out alive you have to keep doing it. Maybe not all gates and 4 safes if you're in a hub system, but at least 1 or 2 gates to throw off the chase and resume in quieter space. A big gang will usually not go crazy about killing a single interceptor or frigate, but who knows, they may be bored and/or vindicative.

But let's say you've escaped unscathed from your encounter, at some point you have to go back to base. If there's a way to go around an enemy fleet then by all means use it, but keep moving and bookmarking. I wouldn't suggest going straight back the way you came because this time the bubble will be on the gate the second the enemy sees you in Local, let alone on scan. I can tell you this from experience, if you go for it, you will die. At this point the only option to bring the ship through is to risk taking a longer route or logging off. But once your bookmark trail is laid out it will be much easier to fly in relative safety. But remember: RELATIVE safety! In EVE danger can lurk anywhere.

In the next installment I will look deeper into the actual scouting job of flying in front of a fleet in both the offensive and defensive way.

Fly hard but smart



OkamiKurai said...

Hey Cozmik, nice read. This kind of information is good for someone like me, just getting into PvP and bookmarking and such. And wouldn't you know it, I'll soon be done training for t2 frigs so I will have a choice. Which actually brings me to my question:

Why not just (at least on that first bookmarking roam) use a SB??

I haven't priced a Claw recently but I thought they were about the same price as a Hound. I mean, it sounds like an interceptor is a much sexier way to do it, but.....

P.S. (from Letrange's blog comment) One more quick question - if you HATE missioning so much, why not come up with another ISK faucet?? ^_^

Benoit CozmikR5 Gauthier said...

Why not an SB? Well, as you mentioned, inties are sexier and more dangerous, therefore I like 'em better :)

Why not find another ISK faucet? Well I also have a trade alt which helps a little, but yes I'm somewhat lazy about ISK making; as I've mentioned before, the only thing keeping Cozmik alive is the sweet PvP... the rest of the game is extremely boring to me.

Kename Fin said...

I'm not a language perfectionist, but just for your information, "comity" is the reciprocal jurisdiction to foreign powers. I think you mean "committee".

Good read. Thanks for that. We do a very similar set of practices while living in w'hole space. I can only wish that CCP would come up with a better way to handle bookmarks in general. For that matter, add a filter to the overview that lets you see your bookmarks there as well.

As you mention, ship choice is largely a matter of taste and we often end up doing the initial scout/recon in the covops because that is what we're also using to find the exits in the first place. Later forays often involve all manner of ships.

Benoit CozmikR5 Gauthier said...

"Commitee" is fixed. Thanx :)

Yes I agree, the bookmark system is all sorts of stupid.