Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Private War, Part IV

The following is the fourth part of an ill-conceived story arc chronicling Rolinthor's and the Applied Physics Institute's pathetic misadventures in the Derelik region. Read Part I here, II here, and III here, and check back soon(TM)* for the next episode (you know, if you're empire mining, and you're really, really bored).

The afterlife wasn't at all like the Amarr said it would be.

As Roland Prideaux climbed the ladder of consciousness back to a state more befitting an advanced hominid, his eyes slowly focused on a face. The face belonged not to an angel but to his wife, Xanthippe.

Prime's "Ex", as he liked to call her, was a Sebiestor woman on the verge of crossing that fuzzy boundary into "peasant" country. But perhaps this requires some explanation: Everyone knows, of course, that Sebiestor are graceful and lithe, if a bit on the gaunt and pale side, and that they have a sensual attitude to match their looks. This is why many men throughout the cluster desire to take them for wives. But for those that do, one morning, when the woman reaches somewhen north of 35 years old (and, mind you, only after she's been married off), these husbands wake up to find that they're wedded not to a wild, tribal sex goddess but to a peasant woman with round face, plump figure and child-bearing hips.

In the looks department, Xanthippe was still years from crossing the peasant line, but in mindset she had crossed it long ago, or so Prime thought to himself, somewhat bitterly, as the clone vat emptied itself of pseudo-amniotic fluid and he stepped, dripping with slime, onto the cold linoleum of his family flat. Once he had coughed up the last of the fluid from his lungs, he grabbed the robe Xanthippe was holding out to him--how is it that she makes the simplest gesture seem like a reproach? he thought--and covered himself with it.

"I'm sorry, love, I'm not here for one of my regular visits," Prime said.

"'Regular'?" she said. "I'm sure I don't know what that word even means anymore. You haven't been making 'regular' visits for more than a month, since you and that Rolinthor fellow went off into w-space with that Amber-woman, to do who knows what."

"'Who knows what'? You know exactly what, Ex: making ISK. For us. For our future together." Prime stood up straight, arched his back, and adjusted his robe, gestures intended to restore his capsuleer dignity. His bathrobe trailing behind him, he walked like King Rouvenour himself to the shower.

"But we have enough already love," Ex cooed at him as she watched the blurred form of his body through the frosted glass of the shower door. She peeled off a layer of clothes alluringly. Prime thought for a moment that she looked like an impossibly graceful impressionist painting. The sight only made him feel worse about what he knew he had to do. He bowed his head under the stream of hot water.

"It's not money, love," Prime said softly, his voice halting. "I can't leave Rol right now. I think he needs me."

Prime watched the impressionist painting lose focus, diminish, and disappear just ahead of the sound of the bathroom door closing. He put even odds on Ex still being in the house by the time he got out of the shower.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Settling In

It's been some time since I've written here on a regular basis. Good times in RL (both work and family editions) tend to line up with blog posting according to the inverse law of the extremes: When life's really going well, or really going poorly, I'm not a "bored spaceman." And life has been really, really kind to me lately.

But I'm beginning to settle back in to something approaching a routine, so expect to see more content here in the coming weeks. Rolinthor, Roland, Amber, and the entire APHID crew have never been far from my mind while I've been away from this space, and in fact their antics are by now almost too numerous to recount in full.

But I'll do my best to tell their stories, starting with the one I left hanging way back in April (that long? really?). Expect weekly updates to that story arc every Saturday at a minimum, as well as occasional vignettes inspired by random bits of flotsam and jetsam I happen across in game. I'll also be breaking character when the mood strikes to follow-up on the story surrounding CCP's minor public relations snafu from earlier this year.

So that's my plan. I hope you'll stop by from time to time to hold me to it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Battleflag of the Khanid Kingdom

Cool people will get the historical allusions (in-game and IRL). Otherwise, I think it speaks for itself:

Y'all can go to hell. I'm goin' to Khanid.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Well Said

This says about everything I tried and failed to say well the other day. It also says something I wish I had said, regarding CCP's apparently flawed approach to measuring success:
Players don't care that "memory usage on the server per user has decreased in the last 12 months". That is as relevant to them as "the brand of coffee in CCP Coffeemachine has been improved".
All that matters to them is the end result -- does the game play better now than it did a year ago?

From my worm's eye view of the situation, at least, the answer to this question is "no." My alliance mates and I have experienced all sorts of problems: increased session changeover times when jumping to another system, failure to dock/undock, client failure to activate/deactivate modules, items/trades that go missing, sov structure weirdness, and, of course, lag. For a while there, it was so bad that our alliance re-named our home station "Eve's Bermuda Triangle", on account of all the crap that just inexplicably vanished or otherwise didn't work right.

I understand that a certain amount of patience is in order with a game as complex as Eve Online, but these days, debilitating or extremely frustrating bugs are an almost nightly occurrence, and I find myself questioning why I log in at all if I can't have any confidence that I won't lose a HAC to belt rats because an armor repper mod refuses to online/offline inside of 20 minutes.

This is where Noob Starship Politician is spot on: CCP needs to keep track of the right metrics. Given that the devs probably don't have the time or inclination to actually play the game too intensively, or explore its ins and outs all that thoroughly, they need to listen intently to the people who are doing those things: the player base.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Open Letter to CCP: Kick the Bucket!

When I started this blog, I never intended to do any out-of-character posts. Part of the reason for this was that the vast majority of out-of-character blogs, while they were mostly high-quality, all sounded the same to me. Another part of the reason was that the official CCP literature, including the books and the Chronicles, presented a pretty cramped, game-centric view of New Eden, which I wanted to flesh out. (I don't want to belabor this point, but the first section of an entire Chronicle consisted of a bunch of people sitting in a board room wondering, along with the readers, what the hell was going on. Note to CCP Abraxas: Having your characters exchange pleasantries does not constitute dialogue. Consult David Mamet.) The final reason I started this blog was that I was bored, and I had a lot of free time.

Obviously, I have a lot less free time these days. IRL work and family life are going well, meaning that my free time isn't. I intend to return to writing about the Applied Physics Institute eventually, but for the time being, frankly, I'm having too much fun just playing the game when I'm not enjoying life or working on other projects.

There is, however, an issue of great importance to CCP that's brought me back to the Diary to write this OOC post.

The above graph shows the subscription figures from the latest Quarterly Economic Update. Anyone notice the paradigm shift? A few months ago, you might have been able to chalk it up to other factors, but now, it seems clear that Eve has left behind an era of smooth, continuous growth and entered a more volatile period of oscillating deflation and expansion (pun intended). Figures like the above must be the "data" which CCP claimed in the minutes of the latest CSM summit as proof that quantity (i.e. new features, new releases) sells better than quality (fewer, fully-baked releases). Unfortunately, what CCP seems unaware of is that this strategy locks you into a self-inflating bubble: Subscriptions are down, you say? Then we need a new expansion! But the expansion is half-baked, so after an initial burst, subscriptions go down. Which becomes the impetus for rushing another half-baked expansion out the door. And so on and so forth until the game is so kludged with half-baked features that failure cascade is upon you.

This strategy even works, up to a point. (Part of my day job tangentially touches on the world of publishing and direct-mail marketing; in some ways, CCP's current predicament is eerily reminiscent.) We can analogize this strategy to a leaking boat. While the leak remains small, it's a simple matter for us to get the water out of the boat using a bucket. When the leak grows, however, we have to find a bigger bucket (i.e. a new expansion, with new features). But as a wise man once said, that which can't last, won't. As the size of the bucket approaches the size of the boat, our watery demise becomes inevitable. And the worst part of it is, once we've adopted the "bigger bucket" strategy, the skill-set we would normally use to make the leak smaller begins to atrophy.

I think the graph above suggests very strongly that CCP has adopted the "bucket strategy"; Dust 514/Incarna represent the newer, bigger buckets to bail out the leaking subscriber base. The longer they follow this strategy, the harder it will be for them to beat back bureaucratic inertia and return to a "fix the leaks" strategy.

I hope, for New Eden's sake, that it's not already to late for them to turn back.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This Is New Eden

A scrimmage in a Border Station
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.

Congrats on the kill. Wish I'd been there.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Plasma-scorched City on a Hill

People of Palas I, I bring you the new city of Asstastica, now producing the finest enriched uranium and consumer electronics products to be found in the cluster (and at a fraction of the going price)!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gold Rush?

So I'm stationside in Amarr right now, practicing my remote sensing skills and seeing how the scan results line up with the production trees for resources produced planetside. I'm frankly a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities. Consider this interesting discussion about planetside industry and control-tower fuel; that's just a single dimension of the many-faceted market that will open up to the capsuleer population once the first command center modules come off the production lines.

The big question, to my mind, is what will all this do to the market? Will we see a big gold rush like we did when Sleeper space was discovered and T3 goods started to make their way on the market? Perhaps, but at the moment, I'm inclined to think it won't. Unlike the case with the Sleeper gold rush, there's no "must have" item at the end of the planetary resources production chain--no shiny new sexy toy for capsuleers to satisfy the urges of their mid-life crisis. And for the time being, capsuleers won't have a lock on the planetary resources market: the empire corporations plan to continue offering their POS-fuel wares for now, so they--with significantly larger stocks of goods which they can bring on to the capsuleer market at a moment's notice--will effectively set an upper limit to prices.

I also wonder if the portion of the capsuleer population that is naturally inclined to these sorts of supply chain management puzzles is large enough to sustain the demand for POS-fuel without help from the empire corporations. At the moment, I'm not sure it is, although it certainly could be in the future.

But I admit I'm really just casting about in the dark for predictions. I'm not much of an economic oracle. We'll all see how things shake out in the coming months.

--A. Macx

UPDATE: One of the problems with guessing what's going to happen in New Eden's economy is the lack of transparency in the decision-making processes of Concord and the empire corporations. You can set yourself up for what you think is going to be an efficient operation moving forward, and--yoink!--some corporate bigwigs can render your business model obsolete and ruin your day. Case in point: decisions like this could change everything, or nothing, and you have few ways to protect yourself. Mind you, I'm not really complaining; those are just the rules of the game.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Overheard in Jita

As if you hadn't figured it out by now, posting has been light (i.e. non-existent) for the past month, as I'm disembarking from the capusle for a few weeks to get married and go an all-too-brief honeymoon in Everyshore.

But so as not to leave you entirely without entertainment, herewith Episode One of "Overheard in Jita", with names redacted to protect the politically incorrect:
Jita Jockey #1: You ever hear what they eat in the Minmatar Republic?
Jita Jockey #2: No, what?

JJ #1: They eat dog.

JJ #2: Really? That's gross. They must be really poor to have to eat dog.

JJ #1: Yup. But not as poor as they are in Heimatar.

JJ #2: Oh yeah? What do they eat there?

JJ #1: In Heimatar, they're too poor to eat dog; they only eat bark. [Rimshot.]

[Crickets chirping.]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction 14: Crielere*

Friday Flash Fiction is an EVE Flash Fiction initiative hosted by Casiella Truza from Ecliptic Rift. Each Friday a prompt is presented, and the next Tuesday links to all stories are added to the original post. This week's prompt is Crielere.
"Clier—", says Prime, grimacing. "Creelerier—"

He purses his lips and gives it one more try: "Creerlier—"

"Don't worry, old boy," says Rolinthor, appearing suddenly behind Prime and clasping his shoulder roughly with one arm. "You don't have to pronounce it! You just have to make it!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Private War, Part III

The following is the third part of an ill-conceived story arc chronicling Rolinthor's and the Applied Physics Institute's pathetic misadventures in the Derelik region. Read Part I here and II here, and check back soon(TM)* for the next episode (you know, if you're empire mining, and you're really, really bored).
Roland Prideaux is committing suicide in less than two minutes, and he's beginning to feel anxious.

It's not that he's lost his zest for life; far from it. Nonetheless he's still eager to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Roland is ashamed by these conflicting feelings. He's pure Gallente, the proud son of a society liberated from the backward ways of priests, princes, and tribal potentates. More important, he's a scientist and an empiricist, with degrees in psychology, infomorph psychology, quantum physics, cosmology, and countless other certificates attesting to the fact that he knows there's nothing sacred in the flesh, nothing that can't be represented as a series of ones and zeroes, and flung across the cosmos on quantum-entangled comm bands, and re-assembled in a new body.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What a Load of Garbage

"What a load of garbage!" said Amber, looking at a cargo manifest on her datapad.

 She was right. There was, quite literally, a large collection of refuse in the cargohold of the Beekeeper III, an Arbitrator-class cruiser I had just recovered from a Minmatar station near Rens. The Beekeeper and its fetid cargo had been rotting away for more than a year after I had taken a sightseeing cruise around Heimatar, looking for salvage from the garbage dumps strewn across that failing state.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Private War, Part II

The following is the second part of an ill-conceived story arc chronicling Rolinthor's and the Applied Physics Institute's pathetic solo misadventures in the Derelik region. Read Part I here, and check back this Sunday for the next episode (you know, if you're empire mining, and you're really, really bored).

Most people find lying in the coffin-like alcove of an autodoc to be an unnerving experience. They say that, beyond the intimations of death brought on by being surrounded by a long, narrow box, it's just a creepy experience. Moments after you first crawl in and lie down, innumerable sensor ganglia extend from the walls, floor, and ceiling of the box to sweep across the skin in a gentle, undulating rhythm. Here and there, an individual ganglion will pause over the skin and burrow into a particular pore or prana point, to diagnose, to administer medicines, or to inject a few billion tissue-repair nanites. The ganglia punctures are utterly painless. Only for the briefest of moments, before the anti-inflammatory meds kick in, you might feel a series of slight itches or a tickling sensation, but that's it. Still, it just freaks people out.

Personally, seeing a body surrounded by the ghostly translucent filaments of a 'doc reminds me of the tropical fish that hide in the sea anemone back home on KP IV. Maybe that's why being in the 'doc, as I am now, doesn't bother me: I don't draw a bright line between man and machine. We're all God's refuse.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Private War, Part I

I feel the embrace of the Universe Entire as a pitch-black swaddling shroud. It's a feeling of incredible power, as if all time and space were one great cynosural field, calling out to me to reach out and go to any point I care to choose in its infinite expanse. A host of long-forgotten names pass through my awareness as potential destinations: Soekheviti, Athra, Epsilon Eridani, the Great Attractor.

There is an infernal paradox to this awareness of omnipresence: In a cosmos in which I can travel anywhere, infinite though it may be, I can go nowhere. To see all that is or can be, as I am now,  is to know that choice and action are pointless. There must be more than this, but this strange awareness tells me there is not!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

EVE Blog Banter #16: Past Imperfect

Welcome to the sixteenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

The third Blog Banter of 2010 comes to us from ChainTrap of the Into the unknown with gun and camera EVE Blog. He asks us: “Eve University turns six years old on March 15th; six years spent helping the new pilots of New Eden gain experience and understanding in a supportive environment. Eve is clearly a complicated game, with a ton to learn, so much that you never stop learning. So, the question is; What do you wish that someone had taken the time to tell you when you were first starting out? Or what have you learned in the interim that you’d like to share with the wider Eve community?”

A couple of years ago, when it had been only a few months since I had graduated from the Royal Amarr Institute*, I was facing a bit of a crisis. The hi-sec mining corporation I was a part of had been effectively disbanded as the result of a mini-Haargoth incident, and none of us knew what to do. Most of us were still mining in cruisers and didn't really know enough to run a mining op, much less a corp.

"Hey, I know a guy in Strife Mercenaries," said one guy, Gwendion I think his name was. "They might let us in." He always struck me as a bit noobish, having lost his first battlecruiser less than 24 hours after he bought it, but then again, I sure as hell was no better. And I have to admit, the idea of Concord-sanctioned violence for profit made something stir in my then-carebearish loins. Other corpmates' loins were not so stirred, however. And so half of us merged into Strife Mercenaries, while the other half said their farewells and sought out another mining concern.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When Success Breeds Failure

Minigzen at K162space has discovered the trend that has finally pushed the Applied Physics Institute out of the wormhole mining business and back into the tender embrace of hi-sec space for the time being:
After Mr. Wizz-bang-shooty-fun had essentially reduced the sleeper population into little flying bags of ISK with Hadoken beams, Mr. Industrialist perked up his ears at the mentions of ABC. And so the miners who were given a choice between working for peanuts and working for nullsec alliances chose….rapture I mean WH mining. . . .
Unfortunatley, the WH miners, being unable to focus on making ships because of lack of stations, safety, ectera, couldn’t make ships, so they carted their mega and zydrine to Jita and sold it, possibly more than the market could handle . . .
In other words, that noise you've been hearing over the past year is the sound of megacyte and zydrine prices plunging off the cliff of abundance. (Pyerite, meanwhile, has been riding the rocket upward.) When we first started this business several months ago APHID was raking in about 50 million ISK/hour from our twin-barge mining operations. Today those same operations net us only a bit more than 30 million ISK/hour—an unhappy 40% drop in income.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Sneak Peek at a Planetary Scan

Last night, an unnamed official from the Directive Enforcement Division's Technology Review Board slipped me a picture that appears to show how the spherical harmonics I alluded to yesterday relate to planetary scans (h/t Anonymous). Here it is:

A planetary scan result, appearing to show the concentrations of argon gas on Tash-Murkon Prime I, a storm world in the Amarr Empire.

I'm sure this image is part of a work-in-progress and may thus be a far cry from the final release. (The scan window, for instance, would seem to be superfluous given that scan results show across the entire planet's surface.) Nevertheless this pic suggests to me a few possibilities:
  • Scanning skills may directly influence a capsuleer's ability to resolve an accurate planetary scan.
  • Location, location, location! Where you plop down your extractor PINs will likely determine your rate of resource extraction. And I expect there will be limits on the amount of PINs that can be placed by any capsuleer in a given area.
  • Temperature, pressure, and surface gravity. These readouts might be important to know for a planetary developer. As we've seen from this Eve University video (h/t Crazy Kinux), launching resources into orbit will incur a cost in ISK. It stands to reason that that cost will be higher for the more massive planets. And temperature and pressure may affect operational costs for planetside facilities.

So that's it. Some tantalizing possibilities for planetary scans but few concrete facts thus far. If you're interested in a closer look at the interface for operating planetside PINs, I recommend you have a look at Crazy Kinux's post linked above, as well as Eve Online Wormholes, which has a rundown of the process in text and pictures.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Planetary Interaction

The entire Applied Physics crew and I have been following the latest developments in planetary industrial automation with great interest. You'll find the full rundown here, but if you'd rather look at the "tl;dr," bullet-point version, look no further.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Watchers

Received: from by EXVBE010-1.exch010.XSN.galnet via ImproTech Exchange Server;
 Mon,  8 Mar YC 112 17:19:26 +0000
User-Agent: Clienne Asier
Date: Mon, 08 Mar YC 112 12:20:25 -0500
Subject: Applied Physics Institute surveillance
From: Clienne.Asier
To: <*Masked Recipient*>
Thread-Topic: Academy of Aggressive Behavior research on capsuleer population of New Eden
Thread-Index: Acq+4X0lu8nmSirUEd+3UF452HGWAVyzCAAAyXeQ=
In-Reply-To: <*Masked Sender*>
Mime-version: 1.0
Content-type: multipart/alternative;

Dear Sir,

Pursuant to Directorate reconnaissance and surveillance policy, I submit to you the following transcript from a recording made by one of our self-assembling spyweb video units, hidden aboard an Amarrian shuttlecraft in the Applied Physics Institute's Ship Maintenance Array in w-space system J124654:

[Rolinthor enters shuttle, followed by Rol Prime]
Rolinthor (R): What's this all about, Prime? And why do we have to do this in a shuttle? You know my feelings on skullduggery.
Rol Prime: (RP): I understand, sir. It's just that...well, I found something: a spycam, I think.
R: A spy, eh? Ok, ok, I follow you. Best not to let on to the crew we know, and all that. I wouldn't be too concerned about it, though. We've got safeguards against corporate theft.
RP: I'm afraid it's not so simple as that. I was cleaning out some of the hardware in the refinery control room today when I spotted a whole heap of cobwebs on one of the motherboards in the CPU cases. I didn't really think much about it. Just removed it and threw it in the dustbin. And then it hit me: spiders make cobwebs, and ...
R: ...and how the hell would a spider get aboard the refinery? We did a clean "anchor and install" in interstellar vacuum. Total sterility protocols.
RP: Right, which is why I got suspicious too. So I took it into the lab and had a look at it. They're not cobwebs at all. Not even a biologic, or at least not what we would think of as organic. As best I can make out, it's a byproduct of a nanoscale self-assembler of some kind. Highly advanced.
R: Like how "advanced"?
RP: As in none of the four empires could put something like this together.
R: As in Jove?
RP: Bingo. But remember, you said it, not me. And if that news isn't enough to disturb your delicate sense of calm, then get a load of this: It's broadcasting a quantum-band signal that I still can't figure out how to trace.
R: Trace it? Rex's blood! Whatever you do, don't try to trace it!

[Sir, forgive the intrusion, but at this point you may find it interesting to note the changes in vocal and maxillofacial characteristics affecting Rolinthor in the accompanying video and audio file.]

RP: Why not?
R: If the Jovians want to spy on APHID, they can bloody well spy on APHID. It's none of our concern. In fact, just flash-fry all that stuff in the lab, delete the records, and hell, throw out and destroy any storage medium that had any contact whatsoever with those webs.
RP: But sir. I can't be so sure about my analysis. Aren't we being a little paranoid?
R: Stop thinking, Prime. Start doing. Just get it done.
[Rolinthor leaves shuttle. Rol Prime remains silently for a few more moments and then exits the shuttle as well.]

As you can see, sir, we may now find it necessary to accelerate the schedule. Our team stands ready. I await only your orders. I remain as always,

Your Trusted Servant,

Received: from by EXVBE010-1.exch010.XSN.galnet via ImproTech Exchange Server;
 Mon,  8 Mar YC 112 12:29:26 +0500
User-Agent Hidden
Date: Mon, 08 Mar YC 112 17:30:24 +0000
Subject: Applied Physics Institute surveillance
From: <*Masked Recipient*> 
To: Clienne.Asier
Thread-Topic: Academy of Aggressive Behavior research on capsuleer population of New Eden
Thread-Index: Acq+4X0lu8nmSirUEd+3UF452HGWAVyzCAAAyXeQ=
In-Reply-To: Clienne.Asier
Mime-version: 1.0
Content-type: multipart/alternative;

My Dear Clienne,

Maintain surveillance. Take no action.


Friday, March 5, 2010

In the Doghouse

So my little rant from yesterday was the first thing Amber saw when she logged into Galnet today. As you might expect, it didn't go over very well. It also didn't help that she saw from the post's time-stamp that I had both written and filed it during her presentation.

But I never saw it coming. Amber had been all smiles when I dropped by her office for the morning operations briefing, so I thought maybe it had slipped by her. Then, as I was about to leave, she hit me with it.

"Oh, Rol, by the way. I need you to sign off on a few due diligence reports from our Compliance Department," she said.

"I'm sure they're fine. Can't Prime do it?"

"I'm afraid not." She gently shook her head and pursed her lips in mock concern. "We have an obligation to be accountable to our shareholders."

"But I'm the only shareholder."

"Sorry, Rol. It's SCC law. The Chairman of the Board has to sign off. Wouldn't want to become the next EIB, would we?"

"Let me get this straight. I have to be accountable for making sure I'm not stealing my own money?"

"I'm afraid so," she said.

And with that, my datapad chimed to alert me that the file was en route. I couldn't believe my eyes when I glanced at the download. Even with a quantum-entangled Insane-o-band (TM) network, there was a progress bar marching across the screen. Rex's balls! How big was this file?

"Have fun, boss." And with those words, she strolled out of the office to get an early start on the weekend. Well played, Amber.

Ergo, it looks like I'll be too snowed under with work for a few days to post anything interesting. But I wanted to leave you all with a little graphical present—or at any rate something I found fascinating. It's a map of all the places I've been to in New Eden, gathered from the DED information accessible from the "Map" button of any Neocom panel.

I had always been under the impression that my travels were spread more evenly throughout the cluster. What a surprise to find that I'm a "Westerner" at heart.

So where do y'all hail from?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Not to Fit a POS

I'm sitting at the middle seat of a long corporate conference table here at AEOS HQ. With me in the board room are the grizzled prospectors of Team APHID. They're a motley mix of races, but they all share one thing in common. Every last one of them looks decidedly out of place in the ergonimically optimized, synthetic-leather executive chairs: They've got dirt under their fingernails and swarth on their skin. Their musk, a weird mix of rosemary and lamb, has now overwhelmed the climate-controlled air of the room.

I don't blame them for fidgeting in their seats like they are. I'm sure they would rather be with the rest of APHID's blue-collar force right now, out there in the void, chewing on a nice, fat arkonor rock. Frankly, so would I. But APHID's CEO, Amber Macx, has called a meeting about last month's attack, and woe betide the man or woman who tries to skip out of Ms. Macx's PowerPoint* Hell.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alone in a Crowd

Fellow capsuleer Rettic has caught the Wanderlust bug himself, and he asks:
What do you think is the right situation for flying solo, if there is such a thing? Are there times when you prefer it?
This question brought me back to the beginning of my own experiment in dealing with ennui, which I've been attempting to chronicle lo these many (erm, just two or three) months. When I plunged into that first wormhole in Maut, I expected that, whatever happened, it would be a lonely experience. The record shows (and will continue to show as I get around to updating it) that it was not. If Rettic does it right, he can expect a steady stream of chance encounters that will weave a web of new relationships, both friendly and not-so-friendly.

Sure, these connections won't necessarily be as strong as the ones you've formed in a corp. That's why you need to make an effort to keep old friendships alive and create new ones: Join a public channel filled with old corpmates (for me it's Semsopub), or create your own channel, or sign up for one of the many profession-relevant channels out there - like WH Colonists, if wormhole exploration is your game.

The most important advice I can give to a capsuleer looking to go solo is to mix it up, leap before looking, dare to be stupid, etc. Sure, you'll lose some shiny ships, but you'll learn so much more than you will if you just play it safe. This is not an easy lesson; the Lord knows I'm still learning it myself. But the more you exercise your crazypants muscles, the more you'll get out of your pilot's license.

The answer to Rettic's question is that any time is the right time for solo work, if your ennui tank is full. So don't panic: When you've had time to work through these issues and empty that tank, your friends and enemies (and maybe even some new ones) will be waiting for you.

Friday, February 19, 2010


It seems I spoke too soon the other day about never having the need to hurry on Ahambra. Only a few hours after I wrote the last post, a treacly chime and flashing icon signaled the arrival of a message on my datapad. It was a DED mail: AEOS HQ was under attack by two members of a corporation called The Last True Socialism named Gameboy4ever and FitzTavi. It was pretty obvious from their profiles that these guys were outlaws in the business of preying on unsuspecting wormhole colonists and their facilities.

This turn of events shouldn't have really bothered me that much. I had already made more than a billion and a half in liquid isk for not all that much work. There was nothing of immense value there other than the structures themselves. No ore or minerals in the refinery; no Sleeper salvage in the corporate hangar. And before my vacation, I had unloaded the vessels stored in the ship hangar and re-loaded them into the Orca's ship bays. Amber had then parked the Orca, cloaked, in a deep safe spot.

Nevertheless, I found that I just couldn't let it go. Hour after hour, the Neocom chimed to alert me to the arrival of another DED mail—control tower at 75% shields, now 50%, now 25%, now in reinforced mode. Would they come back in two-and-a-half days when the shield reinforcement generators ran out of strontium clathrates? Somehow, I had a feeling they would.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

High Holy Days

As I write this, I'm lying on the beach, looking out across a wine-dark sea domed by a brilliant pink-orange sky. Way off in the distance, where sea and sky meet to form something that reminds me of a stellar nursery, the last light of Khanid Prime's sun is slowly sinking below the horizon.

Incidentally, the terra firma beneath my ass is anything but. I'm on one of the floating ice islands that form a part of our family estates on Khanid Prime IV (known to us locals as Ahambra). It was one of my forebears who had the brilliant idea to float the first ice islands here on KP IV.  About a century ago, he noticed a few things about life in the Khanid Kingdom:
1) High-sec real estate commands a high price.
2) Members of the Royal Khanid Family and noble houses aren't getting any fewer, and their estates aren't getting any bigger.
3) Khanid Prime IV is a oceanic world in high-sec space.
4) When water gets cold, it gets hard. And it floats.
From these points, it was only a simple matter of engineering to get where we are today. Thousands upon thousands of icebergs with refrigeration units at their cores and living quarters fit for a King on their surfaces. Oh, and just enough insulation between the two to push the otherwise sultry Ahambra days to this side of paradise.

It's damn strange I don't come here more often. The combination of Sotiyo-Urbaata Drive technology and Jump Gates means that any of New Eden's tens of thousands of planets and moons is less than an hour away by shuttlecraft. In fact, more than ninety percent of the travel time in almost every trip comes in its first and last stages—namely, getting to and from orbit.

Ah, but there's the rub: On fast-paced planets like those in Amarr Prime, Dodixie, or Jita, there are entire industries devoted to getting passengers from point A to point B, planetside. They've got high-speed maglev trains running through vacuum tubes, sub-orbital spaceplanes, you name it. Here, in sleepy Ahambra, however, luxury is the name of the game, and everyone travels by Airship. Sure, it means a significantly longer wait in order to get around, but're on Ahambra! Why are you in such a damn hurry anyway?

Monday, February 8, 2010

How to Win Friends and Influence Pod Pilots

One of the complaints commonly made against us wormhole colonists is that we're unduly antisocial, that we've cocooned ourselves from the rest of New Eden's civilization out of greed and selfishness. It's funny how the people who usually say this have an icon of a flashing red skull next to their name, along with a less-than-friendly relationship with Concord.

They also have a point, or half of one anyway. It's certainly true that the sense of ennui that initially pushed me and the rest of APHID through the wormhole was antisocial in nature. And, to be sure, there are also those who go to great lengths to maroon themselves in w-space. But our experience over the last few weeks in J124654 has been anything but a lonely one.

Excepting occasional dry spells lasting 24 to 48 hours, visitors have shown up in this system about once a day. Most commonly, it's a covert ops frigate from the low-sec static wormhole exit, whose probes are the first things I pick up on scan. Occasionally, a K162 exit pops up from a neighboring w-space system and disgorges a complement of pod pilots seeking to mine this system's Sleeper sites for T3 parts and salvage.

In all of the above cases, APHID follows the same standard procedure:
  1. All mining ops are immediately ceased.
  2. All non-essential personnel immediately disembark from their ships and pods, or warp in their ships to a safe spot and engage a cloaking device.
  3. A designated pod pilot (usually the one with the best scanning skills) endeavors to quickly scan the solar system for new or undetected wormholes.
  4. Said scout then quickly scans down the newcomers and warps to their location at range.
  5. Once we've evaluated the situation tactically, we then have to make a decision: ignore them and hope they go away, or initiate a conversation.
Some would say that a small, three-pod-pilot corporation like APHID should take the former course, hoping that our visitors either don't notice our HQ or don't care about it. After all, if they're not plundering our asteroid belts, then isn't a "live and let live" policy the wisest course?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Silent City

Quomodo sedit sola civitas plena populo facta est.
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!]

—Lamentations 1:1
It was the silence that woke me. The control tower at HQ is many things—but it's never quiet. I couldn't quite grok what it was I was supposed to do about it though. I guess that's why I had the Ex-1 "Executor" implant installed in the frontal lobes of my brain.

The nano-fiber semiconducting lattice of the Ex-1 "Executor" implant  forms a kind of catcher's mitt between the rest of my brain and the frontal lobes, which, as any neuroscientist (or Ex-1 salesman) can tell you, act to inhibit the more crazy-ass ideas that come from the depths of our still poorly evolved brains (Jovian company excluded, of course. Who knows how they've modified their meat computers, or if they even use them anymore?). Ex-1's nano-fiber lattice, paired with a femtoprocessor chip, also embedded in my gray matter, picks up on any brainwave pattern that the frontal lobes deem worthy of my acting out in the real world, and then it effects them itself, if the context is right.

Example: Let's say I decide to lower the thermostat, or convo an old friend; Ex-1 does it for me. The real neat part is that this all happens before I'm even consciously aware I wanted to do it. Thus the devices and ship modules all around me—in pod or out—know that I want to do something before I do.

All of this goes to explain how it is that Rol Prime had just accepted a convo that I wasn't even aware I had already sent.

"Look, I know you're going to say it is my fault, but it's not." His voice had already taken on a frenetic tone. Damn his eyes! I didn't even realize I was upset about something yet.

"Explain," I said, hoping the single-word response would give my frontal lobes a bit of time to catch up.

"You know how it is. I was getting bored watching the progress bars advance in the refinery, and I decided to listen in on Sleeper transmissions. I picked up on a data stream...a really interesting one."

"Define 'interesting'." I was beginning to see where this was going, and why my sub-conscious had immediately called Prime.

"I've never seen anything like it!" He was giddy. "Well, that's not true. It looked like the kind of instructions repper modules send out to the armor-repair nanobots crawling all around the hull of a ship, except these were more advanced than anything I've ever seen."

"And?" I still couldn't see how any of this explained the gnawing sense of unease in my gut.

"And I'll tell you." He was shaking now. "If we could figure out how to adapt a data stream like this one to our armor reppers, we'd have a module that would leave Tech II in the dust—maybe even beat out officer mods like Tairei's. We're talking a capital-class tank on a cruiser-sized hull!"

"So let me guess: You plugged the data stream into our mainframe to get a better look at it."


Deep in the recesses of my skull the Ex-1 implant sprung into action, sending an instruction to a robotic arm conveniently located right behind the chair where Prime was sitting in the refinery control room. The metal arm reached out and swatted Prime on the head.

"Oww! Whadid you do that for?"

"I didn't; the Ex-1 did. The real question is, why do you think my subconscious mind wanted to slap you?"

He rubbed his thumped skull and mumbled something inaudible.

"I didn't catch that."


As he shouted it, conscious thoughts caught up with unconscious ones. "Let me see if I understand. You let the Sleeper data stream through the mainframe's firewall."

"Right, and now the Sleepers are rewriting all of the programs controlling several of APHID HQ's basic automatic functions."

"Anything important?"

"Not really, unless you think breathing is important. That silence you're hearing is the sound of fresh air not being pumped through our ventilators. It's only a guess, but I'd say we've got only a couple of hours of breathing left before we begin to pass out from hypoxia."

The robotic arm twitched again but held still. "Prime, why don't you tell me what is working."

"The Sleeper signal is hacking everything. It's like it's reprogramming the whole base to turn itself inside out. But for now, sure, yeah, some stuff is working: Weapons, lighting, pseudogravity. I even think the johns are still flushing. Oh, and oddly enough, auto-docking functions in the hangar are all nominal."

"That's all I need. Rol out." I disconnected the convo, got out of bed, and stepped into the head. I had a plan, but if that plan was going to work, I'd want to do it with an empty bladder.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Posse, Part II

The convo was from a pod pilot called Tiger Cub of the LurkerZ Corporation, a sub-fifty-member outfit I had never heard of before. Tiger and I were the only ones in Nani local.

No point in being rude, thought I. I accepted the convo and we introduced ourselves, though I remained wary of revealing any details about myself or my w-space operations in the area. He didn't seem the piratical sort, but one can't be too careful about revealing operational details.

Much to my own surprise, Tiger Cub made me an offer:

"Why don't we set each other's corps to blue standings?"

It a sign of the paranoia that unknown space cultivates that my first thoughts about this offer were: What's his angle? After all, if you can't figure out who are the wolves and who are the sheep, then you're the sheep.

Maybe he's looking for hints about APHID's wormhole operations. Maybe he's trying to set me at ease before he and his gang drop in on my operations unannounced. Better to give him as little information as possible.

"Sure," I said, "but I don't know how useful standings would be to you; APHID tends to vagabond all around New Eden. In fact, I think we'll be moving out of this region in the next day or two", I said. No need to tell him how we'll be moving (that is, via a collapsing wormhole).

"Ah, I see", he replied. "But it never hurts to have allies, right?" True enough, I thought. So I set the LurkerZ to blue and he did the same with respect to APHID.

About an hour later, Tiger Cub was gone and Amber was back from her Jita-run. We jumped through the wormhole together and warped ourselves to APHID HQ, basking in the warm glow of the ISK we had just netted from the mineral sale. While consciously I was busy feeling very pleased with myself; quite unconsciously, I had initiated a system-wide scan. The results were as follows:

Scan Results:

  • Rook

  • Hulk

  • Hulk

  • Bustard
In a capsule, up to the gills in a bath of warm nutrient goo, a pod pilot customarily has all his motor neural functions temporarily switched off to prevent him from jerking an arm or a leg and disconnecting one or more of the numerous control wires jacked in to the skull. Aura later informed me that these safety protocols had temporarily (and quite harmlessly, in this instance) broken down, allowing me to silently mouth a single word: Fuck.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Posse, Part I

Over the past few days Rol Prime has efficiently overseen APHID's mobile refinery operations, transmuting massive piles of arkonor, bistot, and crokite ore into tritanium, pyerite, nocxium, zydrine, and megacyte. These refined minerals are 1/1,600th the volume of the ores they come from, which is a brilliant thing from the logistics perspective.

The APHID crews were able to load all of these minerals into the cargohold of a single Viator-class transport ship that was fitted for both speed and stealth. High-slots: One T2 covert-ops cloaking device. Mid-slots: One T2 1MN Microwarp Drive. Low-slots: an overdrive injector, nanofiber internal structure, and an inertia stabilizer (all T2). Rigs: Two T1 Polycarbon Engine Housing mounts. This sexy beast could warp like a frigate, which meant that the ship well-nigh untouchable in low-security Empire space—a good thing, as my accountant and APHID CEO, Amber Macx, tabulated this load of minerals to be worth a couple hundred million isk based on current Jita buy order prices.

As I mentioned last time, there are a few poor, deluded souls who turn their noses up at the minimum 25% waste a mobile refinery costs you. Granted, 25% waste is a big number, but consider the alternative: the volume of ore that had until recently been in APHID's hangars (about 750,000 m3) translates into about thirty trips in a flimsy, vulnerable Iteron Mark V fully fitted with T2 expanded cargohold modules. Not only is that tedious and time-consuming; it also increases your risk profile: Repeating a single cargo-run route thirty times gives a curious pirate or combat pilot plenty of time to set up an ambush.

This was a lesson someone was about to learn the hard way.

It all went down like this: While ensconced in my Anathema, scanning down the newest location of this system's wormhole to low-sec Empire space, I noticed a blip resembling something like the radar cross-section of a Buzzard flit across the scanner interface. It showed only for a fraction of a second, and subsequent scan cycles failed to detect it again. In most other contexts, whether in Empire or nullsec, you can shake off these things as radar ghosts or the product of a paranoid mind. But not in Wspace. Here, there's only one possible response: assume you're being watched by a force of unknown size and with hostile intent.

Not that I was going to let this wholly prudent paranoia put a stop to APHID's operations in J124564. No, I just had to play it coolly and carefully, as always. Warping to the wormhole and scouting it visually while cloaked revealed no further sign of the UFO, so I plunged into the wormhole, ending up in the Nani system, Lonetrek region of Caldari space—only a few jumps from Jita.

Nothing showed up on scan, and only a few souls showed up in Nani's local communications channels—certainly nothing to be concerned about—so I gave the signal to Amber Macx to warp to the wormhole, pass through it, and begin her trip to the market in Jita. Amber's trip, as one would expect from a cloaking transport, went through without a hitch—nothing interesting to report from her trip.

But something did happen to me while I sat in my cov-ops in Nani, scouting the wormhole back to the Wspace system. Aura informed me of an incoming comms request. Someone was trying to convo me.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Numbers Game

So is he actually a threat? Or just a carebear who’s stared at an asteroid for too long?
—Sol, Clear Skies II
"Decent, honest, hard-working, G-d-fearing...oh yes, and profitable, too."

That was how my father described the life of an ore prospector when he agreed to put up the funds for me to attend the capsuleer's school at Hedion University. A traditionalist Khanid from a old and storied Unionist family, he didn't cotton to filthy notions like immortality-by-clone-vat, but he held it as G-d's own Wisdom from On High that there were two things that could wash away almost any impurity: hard work and profits. "Besides", he said, "if ye play it safe like I told ye and stick to Empire ores, not a one of them heathen 'capsuleers' 'll burn ye outta yer pod 'n' send me son's soul t' Hell."

Inevitably, I tired of staring at veldspar asteroids in Parses. Within a few months of graduation, the three sirens, arkonor, bistot, and crokite, called out to me from the null-sec Querious region. Just as inevitably, the predators that roam New Eden's wild frontiers caught me unawares one day, and I awoke in a clone vat, baptized anew in an unwholesome soup of biogenic goo. For a time I managed to hide from my father the fact that the fruit of his loins was now a frozen corpse slowly orbiting the RF-CN3 solar system—that the young man visiting him for the High Holy Days was a "G-d-cursed abomination". But then one day he happened to glance at my tablet and see an SCC email discussing the "recent renewal of your clone contract after a termination event." He never even so much as glanced at me one last time, just turned his back and said, "I don't know who ye are, but I'd take it as a kindness and a mercy if ye could leave me home presently and give this family time ta grieve the death of ouren son."

But enough of boring you to tears with sob stories. I just wanted to show you the kinds of thoughts that drift through a miner's head between strip cycles. Such woolgathering is the miner's worst enemy, for if it doesn't hypnotize you into forgetting to check your ship scanners, it turns you eventually to bloody-minded notions about hopping into a combat-ready ship and becoming a predator yourself.

There's one reliable cure-all for this mental malaise: calculating your profit margins. I'll use the Applied Physics Institute's little mining operation here in J124654 to show you what I mean.

Right now, my colleague Rol Prime and I are each in the driver's seat of a Covetor-class mining barge fit with three Tech-1 strip miners and two Tech-1 mining laser upgrades. Our mining lasers are trained on a big, fat arkanor asteroid, and we're busily transferring ore from our cargo holds to awaiting jet-cans after each strip cycle. Our third colleague, Amber Macx, is parked at the Ass End of Space HQ in an Orca-class industrial command ship, running two Mining Foreman Link modules, one of which allows us to get better range out of our mining lasers, and another which allows us to decrease their cycle time. So the question every miner wants an answer to while he's mining: How much isk are we going to make?

First, let's look at how much m3 in ore one strip is pulling in per cycle: roughly 1,160 m3 per 152 seconds. That's 7.63 m3 per second for one strip; multiplied by six (to account for the two covetors), we get 45.79 m3 per second. (Nota bene: These figures will vary, of course, according to your particular set-up.)

Now we need to find out how much isk we're making per m3. Checking the orders on, we see a plethora of prices we could arguably plug into our calculations. Which ones to use? For the sake of convenience, and because we don't know where our static low-sec wormhole will lead us to, let's assume we're operating in Jita. Should we use buy orders, or sell orders? If you don't care when you get paid, and if you don't mind monitoring the markets in The Forge, then by all means use the lowest sell order prices. Personally, I like getting paid right away, and I can't monitor Empire markets from out here, so I'm going to use the highest, large-volume buy order prices: 3,030 isk per unit of megacyte, and 1730 isk per unit of zydrine. (We're not going to worry about the price of the tritanium we refine from this ore, as it will be several orders of magnitude less valuable than the megacyte and zydrine.)

Plugging our values into Grismar's invaluable ore chart yields an isk/m3 value of 405.28. Now, 45.79 m3/second times 405.28 isk/m3 yields a total of 18,557.77 isk/second. We're not quite done, however; these values are only true if we get a perfect refine on our ore. Rol Prime, a master refiner, could manage a perfect refine if he were using top-of-the-line station equipment in Empire space owned by our very good friends, the Royal Khanid Navy. But J124654 is a long way away from His Majesty's RKN, which means Rol Prime is stuck with our sub-standard Medium Intensive Refining Array, a fact Prime never ceases to remind me of.

A common misconception of these mobile "intensive" refineries is that they regurgitate a 75% refining yield no matter what kind of refining skills you have. As Prime once indignantly reminded me, this is absolutely false. If, like me, you're the kind of person who hasn't a clue what's the difference between distillation and fractionation, and wouldn't know a crystalline-based refining process if it bit you in the ass, then pressing the "Refine Now" button in the control room of an array will produce a singularly craptastic result. Take it from me: Don't do it. Make sure you have a master refiner managing the process in order to ensure a respectable 75% yield.

Getting back to our calculations. Seventy-five percent of 18,577.77 isk/second is 13,918.33 isk/second. Multiplied by sixty seconds and then sixty minutes gives us a total of about 50,105,988 isk/hour. Not too shabby. "But, but, but" you say, "I can make XX percent better with two hulks, modulated strip miner II's with crystals, mindlinks, Rorquals, Harvester Drones, refining in stations" etc. etc. ad nauseam. Yes, indeed you could. But what will happen to your bottom line when a predator's missiles, lasers, and drones catch you unawares and turn all that fancy gear into scrap metal? And believe you me, it will happen. If you're lucky, it won't happen often enough to put you in the poor house, but I've never been one to count on luck overmuch.

There are only two more potential bottlenecks between you and your isk in this whole process. I'll discuss the first, refinery operations, here, and I'll leave the other one, getting the goods to market, for my next entry.

A Medium Intensive Refining Array processes 25,000 m3 of ore in 90 minutes. (Its larger cousin, the Intensive Refining Array, does 75,000 m3 in 180 minutes but can only be onlined at a large control tower, due to CPU/Powergrid issues.) Let's take our isk/m3 value for arkonor (405.28) and multiply it by the biggest sized refine we can process in the medium array (about 22,500 m3). That gives us 9,118,800 isk per 90-minute refinery cycle. As you can see from all the above, we can mine 50 million isk in ore per hour, but it takes us 7.5 hours to refine that much ore.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Running a refinery process is a relatively hands-off affair compared to mining. All Prime has to do is show up every hour-and-a-half to empty the processed minerals from the refinery and flip the switch to start the next batch. I like to think of the refinery as a 9-to-5 factory. It churns out about 50 million per day, as long as I keep fueling it with ore. Therefore, I only need to do about one hour's worth of arkonor mining per day to keep it fueled. (This has the added benefit of lowering my risk profile by putting my Covetor's and Orca-hauler in harm's way for as little time as possible.)

So there it is: 50 million isk per day. One-and-a-half billion isk per month. It's not the Comstock Lode or El Dorado (a couple of pre-Eve Gate legends I read about the other day). But for our small operation, it will do quite nicely.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Setting Up Shop

The wormhole I had found in the Maut system was a K162, in other words a generic exit, meaning the only way I could find out what was on the other side was by going through it.

Immediately after coasting through the gossamer veil separating known space from unknown, a generic warning popped up on my ship's interface, saying that local environmental phenomena in this solar system was mucking about with my ship's systems. The combat simulation modelers reported the following performance variants:
  • Armor EM Resistance +22%
  • Armor EXP Resistance +22%
  • Armor KIN Resistance +22%
  • Armor THRM Resistance +22%
  • Shield EM Resistance -22%
  • Shield EXP Resistance -22%
  • Shield KIN Resistance -22%
  • Shield THRM Resistance -22%
  • Signature Penalty 0.73
  • Small Weapon Dmg Multiplier 1.55
Most likely the strange companion to this system's normal sun—a Wolf-Rayet star—was causing these effects. Nothing to be too concerned about. The improved effectiveness to armor plating was even a bit of a boon.

The ship's nav computers automatically recorded a bookmark of the exit back to Empire space and then ran a check for the signature of the wormhole I had just traveled through. It registered as U210. This meant absolutely nothing to me, so I pulled up a search engine and plugged that in with a few keywords like "wormhole" and "New Eden."

This site was the first hit that came back in the search results. What a wealth of information it had! Plugging in the solar systems locus signature, J214654, yielded some good news. Not only did this system possess a static exit-point to low-security space*, but its generic, CONCORD-assessed danger rating was "Class 3", meaning that a small three-capsuleer operation like my own could take advantage of it without running too much risk or attracting too much attention.

After thoroughly probing and scanning the system for hostiles and finding none, I gave the go-code over the open comm channel for my two colleagues to warp to the wormhole and follow me through—one in an Orca fitted with a cloak and the other in a Viator-class blockade runner, also stealth capable.

For the next hour after arrival, the Applied Physics Institute (APHID) engineering crews worked double-time to get the control tower shields online, followed by guns, scrams, webs, hangars and the refining array. As they labored under the gaze of this system's twin suns, the men couldn't help but feel cut off from civilization and unnerved by the silence. Out here, the unceasing electromagnetic chatter one grows used to picking up on comm devices throughout known space was nowhere to be found. They missed Local Channel.

I wasn't so sure I missed it. Local Channel, the capsuleer's premier go-to intelligence tool, had turned us all soft and squishy. Had we forgotten how to use our ship's scanners? How to assess a threat profile? Another thought occurred to me: The fragile anonymity that this silent system granted could work in our favor; it would hide the predators from us, true, but it would also hide us from the predators.

The APHID crews evidently had a different perspective on the lack of civilization. Once they finished onlining the Gallente Control Tower and its mods, they christened it "Ass End of Space." Oh well, let them have their fun for now. They'll learn to like it out here eventually—especially when they see the size of their first paycheck.

The Wolf-Rayet Companion Star in J124654 system. Wolf-Rayet stars, presumably named after a pre-Eve Gate human astronomer or astronomers, are massive, hot stars which shed mass at a faster than usual pace by means of a strong stellar wind.

*How curious that a natural spatial phenomena should be so seemingly responsive to an artificial political construct like the security rating of a given solar system. The more conspiratorial-minded might see this as evidence that these wormholes are not so "natural" after all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unknown Space

One month ago, I thought I had reached the end of my travels in New Eden. My strip miners had cycled millions of m3 of ark-bist-crok through the cargo holds of hulks and into the holds of waiting haulers. I had made billions more isk as a T2 inventor and shipbuilder. I had thrashed backwater null-sec markets for billions more in trades. And I had fought and died with some of the best (and worst) corporations, militias, and alliances—everything from one-on-one frigate fights to massive battleship fleet fights.

There was only one problem with all this. I was bored out of my skull.

In response to such a confession, you'll often hear the capsuleer's refrain: "If you're bored, you're doing something wrong." Yet I truly believed I had seen all New Eden had to offer, and, though I hadn't been the best at any role (not by a long shot), the drawbacks of each and every profession had been turning pod-piloting into a chore. My litany of complaints will no doubt seem familiar to many:
  • Mining—In null-sec, you run and hide if anyone shows up in local. In high-sec, you pray you haven't been spotted by Jihadswarm or its imitators. Result: ISK and boredom.
  • Manufacturing—Buy, make, or mine products at low prices. Bake products in oven. Sell products in market at higher prices. Rinse and repeat. Result: ISK and boredom.
  • "Ratting", "Plexing", Agent Missions, etc.—Worse than mining, in that you look like you're a big tough fighter by shooting at things, yet the pirates are so dumb and predictable that they might as well be rocks. Result: ISK and boredom.
  • Gang PvP—Spin your ship in its hangar for hours upon endless hours while you wait for everyone else to get their shit together, then gang warp 20+ jumps while your fleet commander gets his shit together, and then, if you're lucky, a few minutes of "pew-pew gf gf" in local, and 20+ gang warps back home (unless you're podded, that is). Result: Overall, loss of isk, and hours of boredom, albeit punctuated by moments of sheer terror and fun.
  • Solo PvP—Fly 20+ jumps in null-sec hoping to find some ratter, miner, mission-runner too stupid to warp to a safespot when local goes +1. Result: same as Gang PvP.
  • Null-sec Alliance Politics—Don't even get me started. Just ask Hurley what he thinks about the Mayberry Machiavellis running most corps. Or consider what I call TheMittani's Law: The quality of his columns is indirectly proportional to the degree of self-regard he displays therein. Power attracts vainglorious nitwits.
TL;DR version: I was considering turning in my pod pilot's license and giving myself up to the biomass recycling tanks.

But then something sparked in me; call it the spirit of the frontier. Whatever it was, it was telling me to pull up stakes, gather up all my meager worldly goods, and strike out for the Unknown in search of fortune, glory, or bust. And these days, the "Unknown" means only one thing: W-space.

If I went, I wouldn't be bringing any road maps or guidebooks promising surefire ways to maximize isk profits for minimum risk. That would be missing the point, which was to make my own mistakes, learn my own lessons. So much of what had bored me to tears over the past couple of years was the fact that once you read up all of the FAQs and tip sheets there only seemed to be one way to do anything: The Right Way. To hell with that. To paraphrase another starship captain, I aimed to misbehave.

Frontier spirit thus awoken, I took stock of my tools:
  • two fellow pod pilots in the Applied Physics Institute (APHID), with mining, refining, and hauling capabilities shared between us
  • six Coveters with T1 strips, upgrades and scanners
  • some gas harvesters
  • one Anathema with scanning rigs
  • a couple of Iteron Mark V
  • one Apocalypse battleship, haphazardly fitted
  • one Zealot, combat ready
  • one Viator
  • one Orca with all the trimmings
  • lots of core scan probe launchers and probes of all kinds
  • one medium Gallente POS, with 8 small railguns, 2 medium railguns, 2 webs, 2 scrams, corp hangar, ship maintenance bay, medium intensive refining array, and a partridge in a pear tree
  • enough POS fuel to last about three months
It's not much, but it was all I had to hand. (Besides, I wasn't about to bring in any more gear with the Obelisk; the verifiably dullest thing in all of New Eden is watching the fat hindquarters of a freighter align for warp after warp.)

A wormhole was surprisingly easy to find. In the Maut solar system of the Placid region, one jump away from APHID's HQ in Osmeden, my Anathema's scan probes chirped to let me know that they had found a shimmering portal to "unknown space."

What would I find on the other side? I had no idea—and that's just what I was looking for.