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?
I see things differently. It's when you're at your weakest that you should seek to convince any possible opponents that you're at your strongest. Which is why my first action upon scanning down intruders is to launch combat scanning probes and leave them out there long enough for them to be noticed. Nothing sets an intruder on edge like knowing that someone is trying to find them with combat scan probes.

If the intruders were previously unaware of you, they'll usually cease all "ratting" or mining operations and switch themselves over to a combat footing. If there are many intruders, one will ostentatiously present himself in a "bait" ship like a Drake or a Tier-3 battleship; no doubt his friends are hiding under cloaks or are waiting in a nearby system to pounce on any force that takes the bait.

At this point, since I'm not about to fall for their trap, I initiate a convo with the bait pilot. The key here is to play it cool, to be friendly, but to give them only as much information as you want them to have. Am I a lone covert ops pilot who randomly wandered into the w-space system from known space? Is my corp the owner of the Gallente Medium Control Tower they've no doubt seen on scan by now? Am I the advance scout for a bunch of pirates spoiling for a fight? Let them continue to guess. For while they're in the dark about your capabilities and intentions, they'll most likely shut down whatever mining or ratting operation they've got going. And if you keep the conversation going—remember, not blustery or boastful—you might actually make some new friends.

In fact, I've found that one of the most effective means of driving off unwelcome w-space colonists is to express interest in joining their operation, if their corporate profile suggests that they're open to new recruits; the last thing anyone wants to do is to antagonize a potential recruit. Needless to say, this strategy doesn't work with just anyone—and particularly not with the more aggressive types.

But I can hardly keep count of the many of pod pilots that I've either spooked or charmed out of J124654 using nothing but a cov ops frigate and a few combat scan probes.

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