Saturday, April 25, 2020

Evicted by Inner Hell

Once you get into your routine, it's hard to appreciate certain things. I've been around long enough to know you should never take things for granted in this game. You have to be prepared that certain things like your favorite ship, play style, or even your corp will change or disappear. Despite living in wormholes for most of my time, this week I have experienced something new. My corp got evicted by Inner Hell. While the risk of eviction was always known to me, the corps I have joined were always small-medium size focused on small gang PVP. Corps I've been apart of were always neutral, minded their business, and provided content when the opportunity arose. I took my home systems for granted as I always felt that to evict my corp would be more pain than it's worth. Well, Inner Hell was of another opinion. It felt that Epicentre Syndicate has accumulated enough wealth, got too comfortable and it was time to shake things up, by cleansing the system of any traces of player activity.

I take breaks in EVE. Sometimes, the breaks are quite long. Once you stop logging in, it becomes very difficult to force yourself to even open the client. Due to this, I often miss out on a lot of things happening such as big updates or drama and politics. My isolationist hunting playstyle did not help as it made it very easy to stay ignorant, ignore what was not impacting me directly, and just mind my own business. Therefore, the main reason I joined the corp was to be more engaged in EVE universe, relearn things I've forgotten and build friendships. After some discussions with corpmates I've learned that drama in wormholes was quite a big topic recently and a lot of evictions were going on. Of course, I refer to TDSIN and HK squabble. While Epicentre Syndicate was neutral, we did discuss the topic of eviction on numerous occasions, and mentally, at least some of us were always prepared to face the music.

On a personal level, all these eviction stories felt crazy and unreal. Being in wormholes, it always felt like being a part of a community. And while some corps hated each other, we still "got" one another. At the risk of sounding like a bittervet, one unwritten rule in wormholes was always respected. You don't evict active PVP corps. Not at least without a very good reason. The content was always hard to come by in w-space and make it emptier would do no good to anyone. It seemed like "old fashioned" approach went out of style and big cleansing was underway. So what does this have to do with us being evicted by Inner Hell? Probably not much, but I thought it would be interesting to mention. There is also a chance that due to other evictions ongoing, the list of whom to evict for Inner Hell became much shorter.

Inner Hell is famous for its playstyle which specializes in evictions. It's what they do and what they are good at. And we got to experience that first hand. While I dislike this playstyle, I do have to respect the commitment they put in. While we caught initial scanner checking out timers of our structures, the first iteration of hole control fleet caught us completely off guard. It all started with a miner gank. We thought it was a random encounter but quickly realized there was an eviction force present in our system.

The last stand

Epicentre Syndicate leadership was working around the clock to deal with a sudden crisis. It was clear that our corp alone won't have a chance to stand against the hostiles in the system and we would need help. But if you have been involved in wormhole warfare, you probably realize that it is extremely difficult to get help inside the system if you have no hole control. Even if there are volunteers to help the cause, it's useless without a way to get inside. We joke around that the only way we stand a chance is a frigate hole to our system since they can't be rolled and it's extremely hard to control the incoming traffic.

The very next day, Bob answers our prayers and blesses us with 2 frigate holes. The biggest evidence of Bob watching us if I ever saw one. Batphone goes out and soon we have over 100 pilots docked in our main Fortizar. Evening comes and I see the biggest fleet I have participated in wormhole space so far. We are ready to make a claim for the right to stay in this c4 system.

We start off well. We pick off some of t3s and force the enemy fleet to warp off and successfully defend the timer. As Inner Hell can't win the direct confrontation on a station, they warp around and we play a game of cat and mouse for a short while. 

While we could defend the timers of some of the stations, it was clear that this would be the battle of attrition if we kept it up. We could defend today, but what about tomorrow? Next week? Enemy fleet has fully committed to this invasion while people that came to our help took time from their schedules, burned to our system, and spent most of the day in it. It was unreasonable to expect and even ask them to stay longer than that. Therefore a decision was taken for the "final" battle. We would warp directly on the enemy fleet and brawl it out. We either incur big losses to the enemy that forces a regroup or go out in style. It's a win-win. We undock everything we can, align, and warp on the enemy. The big battle starts.

It all starts out great. We pop some good amount of t3s, Drakevacs, Ikitursas. However, as the battle drags on and we lose the majority of the fighters, it becomes noticeably harder to get kills. The fact that the fleet is fitted for long-range did not help shooting high-resist speed tanking ships. Especially after the enemy fleet picked off our webifiers, the damage output started to stagnate. It became clear that the fight was lost and we were just feeding kills, it was time to salvage what we could and bail.


Despite everything, the mood in the corp was on the upside. Everyone was feeling good for having a chance to organize a good fight and even inflict some moderate losses on our evictors. The zkillboard report shows 43 billion worth of ISK damage done and 93 billion lost.

With some random picks before and after, it's safe to assume we have done over 50 billion ISK damage. While it may not sound much in the grand scheme of things, we can say with confidence that Epicentre Syndicate members and allies gave their best to stand our ground with no regrets. It was time to go with our contingency plan - deny as many resources as possible, by self-destructing ships and logging off valuable assets on inactive characters.

We self-destructed, trashed, and evacuated assets that we could. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to our home. Even with victory at hand, Inner Hell diligently was watching the wormhole connections. To deny even a chance of catching our pods and shiny ships such as my scanning Proteus, most of the corp Yeeted out with Needlejack Filaments to null-sec and made our way to high-sec. In a way, it feels refreshing. We are no longer tied to our assets and are free to choose the next path. What does the future hold for Epicentre Syndicate and myself? Who knows, but we will make sure to use this opportunity and make the best of it.

Additional notes
1) Thanks to everyone who came to help to defend our home! Epicentre Syndicate members are very grateful and will not forget if some of you will be in a need.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A casual jump, uncasual day

Probably quite a few of us have encountered a ship in space, burning at full speed towards a no particular direction, but mostly outside the direction of any celestial. Usually, it's some speedy small ship with a cap stable fit and MWD on. It can be quite tricky to catch those because you need your own speedy, a much faster ship as, by the time you land on grid, you will have quite some distance to cover in order to catch up. Other times you will find a ship standing in space or slowly moving one direction. Next door to my home system I was watching a couple of guys going about their business. While I was hoping a good target will show up, instead, locals went quiet with one exception. For some reason, a Bifrost just warped to an offline tower and started slowboating.

It was a bit strange, as I was fairly certain locals knew they were not alone as next door was our, very active, home system with a mobilized fleet ganking a carrier a jump away.

Any self-respecting wormhole pilot always checks its surroundings and when you see an active corp next door you are extra cautious. However, it seems not everyone develops self-preservation instincts. Bifrost pilot just kept burning away, despite having a couple of stations to stay docked at. Having watched the pilot all this time, I decided enough was enough. To leave him like this would be going against the code of wormholes if there was such a thing. While Bifrost is not aligned to any particular celestial, I still manage to find a good bounce and interest him with my cloaky Proteus. For the record, my Proteus is 1600 plated and afterburner fit. It is slow. And I mean, really slow. To catch a moving target with it, even going to one direction, is a form of art. After bouncing off the celestial I slowburn perpendicularly towards the target until I am within scram range. Of course, I will not be satisfied with just the ship kill and warp in the Sabre to make sure I get the pod too, in case the pilot wakes up from screeching sound of hull alerts. The ship and the pod go down. Thanks to the "Egg Hunt" event, I net a cool 250mil from implants alone.

You will notice that fit has only two high-grade amulet implants. While I'm not the one to look a gifted horse in the mouth, I highly doubt he just happened to have 2 amulets plugged in. I suspect his "apm" was not high enough to pull everything out in time. In my opinion, pulling implants in combat is such a nonsense mechanic that I can't believe we still have to deal with it. Interestingly, shortly after the gank, I receive the following email.

I don't know about others, but in my experience, you want a gank to be over as quick as possible to avoid becoming ganked yourself. Therefore, in w-space, I'm not in the habit of asking for ransoms from my targets. I was surprised by the question itself as I can't imagine much of ransoming is happening in w-space overall. Besides, I can't scan a pod for implants. so I doubt I would have gotten an offer higher than the value of the Bifrost itself.

When a casual patrol becomes the highlight of the day

I won't lie. It's been a few days since I've been actively scanning and scouting, but apart mining Ventures and scanning Herons, I haven't seen any ships on d-scan. Meanwhile, my corpmates, report a casual RattlesnakeVargur or a Niddhogur. It is easy to be discouraged, but I know better. I know that Bob rewards the patient.

The chain is scanned and there doesn't seem to be much going on. I consider throwing a proposal of rolling the c4 static connection but decide to visit the scanned systems, just in case someone decided it was a good time to shoot sleepers. On these routine checks, you are usually on autopilot. It's like driving a car home from work and wondering how the hell you got here without the memory of driving. I jump, d-scan, launch combats for a blanket scan. If no ships appear, I jump to the next system. Rinse and repeat. I jump to the last system in the mapped chain. D-scan updates and I am met with a confusing result.

The hell is going on here? Random ships on scan, tons of hangar containers floating around? It takes a couple of seconds to come back to my senses. I adjust my poor sitting posture to be slightly less poor, put my eyes closer the directional scanner and make sure I am not imagining things. In the old days, this would be a control tower with a force field, a bubble and a bunch of secure containers. But those days are past and hangar containers littered usually means only one thing - someone just unanchored or destroyed a station. I warp to the Fortizar and find the containers as also the locals, busy warping forth and back. The routine looks like a pod warps to a container, boards the ship, warps back to the station, parks the ship and goes for the next. Ships are mostly t1, with some faction and t2 exceptions. I immediately send a ping and we form up a disposable Cyclone fleet. Suddenly a Thanaots undocks and warps to a container, presumably with an idea to scoop all the loot due to it's enormous cargo bay. A possible capital kill always get's everyone excited. We ping for Drake Navies who still did not leave home in a cyclone and bring a couple of Basilisks just in case. Who knows what locals will do trying to save their carrier.

While the fleet is halfway, I watch the carrier warp to a can, scoop the loot and warp back. I have missed my first chance to tackle it. Thankfully, the carrier does another roundtrip. I decide to act as you can never be sure there will be a third chance. I warp my trusty Proteus to a can, decloak and tackle the carrier.

I only need to keep it for several seconds until the first Sabre lands, followed by a fleet. While the locals helplessly watch through the safety of station windows, we bash the carrier into the scrap and send the pilot on his merry way via pod express. Speaking of pods, this one spared no expense and only flies his carriers in a style of high-grade amulet sets.

As with the Bifrost's pilot, TrippleX Ozzy also did not have enough apm to plug everything out. Still, thanks to the "Egg Hunt", over 800 mil of implants drop. Who am I to complain? While we continue to check out the cans and map the worthwhile loot, a report of a Leshak landing on a wormhole towards our home. The Leshak is promptly tackled, but he is not alone. More and more ships land on the grid. All of a sudden, we have a full-blown fight going on with a SECURITY SQUAD.

Oh man, there is only so much excitement at a time I can handle. Finally we come out on top and force the intruders away, while netting several nice Leshak kills. However, while we were busy battling out with the unexpected 3rd party, the locals did not waste any time and continued with hauling their stuff back to their station. That is until we came back. To be fair, locals did have a chance to buy us out and continue with their looting, but my proposal was met in silence.

Which left us no choice, but play loot pinata, by ejecting bunch of t1 ships and shooting everything in sight, while hauling the expensive stuff out to a convenient high-sec static. As per our corp rules, the content finder gets to keep all the loot. I can't say how much ISK this whole ordeal net me as I honestly lost track of it, but it certainly was not bad for an honest day's work. Bob be praised for these gifts.

Monday, April 6, 2020

It's all about the journey [insert radio static sound effect here]. Can hear me? Are you there? Hope I got the signal right. Here we go.

Yes, I am here. I hope you haven't forgotten about me. I have been watching you. The wormholes are amazing. If you pay enough attention, you will spot all these small details. You will be able to see that we all are connected by the will of BOB. One day I will see you at the sun launching probes.

Scanning and ganking a Gnosis.

Afterwhich we will set up bait, but end up letting you slip through our fingers.

HOWEVER. Sooner or later we will run into each other again and another day, I will find your wreck1) floating around by the entrance of the wormhole. Such is wormhole life.

The right time

I decided to take my trusty Proteus for a spin. Every jump to the unknown is like an adventure. You never know what you will see. One time I will nab a Tengu.

The other time I will catch an unsuspecting Rattlesnake.

Or I may end up watching your direct high-sec connection and waiting out for that perfect moment to catch something big. And even if you have a high-sec in your home system, a scout sitting on the exit to warn of all incoming traffic, even if you already did numerous trips and feel there's nothing to worry about, beware, I am patient. As Duckling System was wrapping up their logistics run, they send one final ship through the wormhole - a freighter. When waiting for the "right time", sometimes it's hard to describe the said "right time", however when it comes, you know it in your bones. The same way I knew when the freighter showed up, which seemed to be in a no hurry to warp out, even after the support fleet leaves the grid. And several precious seconds is all it takes.

Freighter gets tackled, fleet warps in and we chew all the ships we can get before the locals have a chance to react and reorganize a proper response fleet.

And while the Charon turns out to be empty, it's the opportunity that counts.

The opportunity

Speaking of opportunities, not every time you get to utilize them if you don't trust your gut. On one of my scouting trips, I jump into a c4. Immediately the d-scan reveals 2 Nestors and a bunch of wrecks. I inform the corp about potential targets and start pinning down the site that the Nestors are at. While I finally identify the anomaly, just before breaking the cloak, a final d-scan reveals only one Nestor. I warp to an empty site with a lot of wrecks and still one sleeper present. I am confused. Why did they warp away? Was I spotted? That can't be it, they warped off before I broke my cloak. But with only one sleeper at the site, it sure wasn't "tank breaking" issue. I warp to the system's station and find both pilots there. I have this tingling feeling that they had a scout on the wormhole which alerted them of an incoming ship. However, after watching for a bit, I see Nestors undock and warp back to the site, then back to the station. Very strange behaviour. Finally, they warp to the site once more and stay there. I inform the fleet and order then to come on the wormhole, be ready to jump on my command. As soon as my fleet lands, I warp at 10 ready to engage, but Nestors quickly warp out. Ok, this can't be a coincidence. I could have tackled while the fleet was one jump out, but was not very confident that I can take on 2 Nestors and sleepers at the same time. I probably could have timed it before them landing on the wormhole's entrance, as I felt it in my bones they had a scout on the outside of their system, but I decided to go against my gut.

It was clear there was nothing to be gained here anymore as many wormholes know, once your prey spots your aggressive intentions, it's very unlikely anything will come out of it and they will stay docked. But my gut says otherwise. I don't know what, but something will happen. Worth noting, there's a high-sec next door, 1 jump out. While I keep my Proteus in the system, I also park a Sabre on the high-sec. It's not too far from Jita, so it is very likely I will see some activity.

Locals are being vigilant. They keep an eye on that wormhole like hawks and are not afraid to let me know that they know I am still inside.

While perhaps they think they will discourage me, it has an opposite effect. I feel the locals are getting restless. After all, it's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and some random Proteus is disturbing all the fun farming activities. As expected, locals can't help themselves and soon I see a couple of Occators make a run for the high-sec. How likely that a lone Proteus will catch anything? Not very. After the deep transport ships jump out, I log in my Jita trader alt and keep eyes on the undock. DST's dock up in Jita as expected. Pilots perform the shopping and soon I see them on the undock once again. I cargo scan one of the ships and confirm they are coming home not empty. I order the fleet to wait 1 jump out. The DST's jump back through the high-sec. I watch them enter warp towards home, I order the home fleet to jump and warp while I decloak and quickly follow suit and soon land with the ships on their home entrance. They jump. I jump. The bubble goes up. Once I see the ships on the overview, I quickly burn towards to prevent cloaking and get a scram on one of the targets. Unfortunately, the second DST manages to MJD away and warp way while leaving his friend behind to his doom.

Once again the gut delivers. While it's a shame we did not get a shot at those Nestors, the kill is a kill. In the end, it's all about the hunt and stalking. As they say, the journey is half the reward.

1) I swear I saw a wreck with my own eyes, but still not back in a habit of making screenshots :p.