The Expedition

High Sec, shit. I’m still only in High Sec. Every time I think I’m going to wake up back in the wormhole. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I’d wake up and there’d be nothing…  I’ve been here a week now. Waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this station I get weaker. And every minute Sleeper squats in w-space he gets stronger. Each time I look around the station walls move in a little tighter.

Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. An expedition.

“I may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

-Roald Amundsen.

The time has come for the Next Big Eve Goal(tm).  Without one, I tend to wander a bit, log in less, queue up random skills and end up doing something else.  A project.  Not merely an activity.  Something that appeals to my sense of adventure and exploration.  An Expedition.

In our little casual corp, we’ve been bandying about the idea of setting up our own Player Owned Station in high security space.  The idea was that we could set up a research station on the cheap to do invention and research and copy BPOs without long waits.  As an idea that wasn’t too bad.  It fed our industrial tendencies but lets face it, it wasn’t that exciting.  Neat maybe, but not exciting.

So it came to pass that the idea of setting up a POS in a wormhole might be fun and rewarding.  The more we discussed it, the more intriguing it became.  It was the unknown.  It was 0.0 but the lawless, no sovereignty kind of 0.0.  It was risky.  It was difficult to get to and potentially very difficult to get out.  You could become marooned.  There was the promise of finding exotic and precious things and in there lurked evil monsters.

An expedition to w-space.  We’d need to be as self contained an operation as possible since resupply would be dicey at best.  And, like all the best things in Eve, it would require lots of planning, strategerizing and yes, perhaps a few spreadsheets.

Like the Asmundsen quote, we should plan on making our own luck.

Through the Eye of the Needle

The first constraint to consider is the fact that wormholes have a mass limit and a time limit. For example, a Q317 Class 1 Wormhole will permit only a maximum of 20 million kg at a time to pass through and an aggregate total of 500 million kg to pass through before collapse and it will only persist for 16 hours.

Finding a candidate wormhole is the first order of business.  Initially, I think we’ll opt for a fairly pedestrian Class 1, 2 or 3 wormhole as a trial run.  The ideal wormhole candidate should be reasonably fresh and undisturbed by ship travel.

Plan A will be to insert a probe ship capable of cloaking and with an ample supply of probes to scan down the system.  In a perfect world, a buddy will remain on the k-space side of the hole on recon.

The prober will apply basic wormhole hygiene upon arrival:  bookmark the entrance side of the hole, bookmark the exit once in the wormhole, immediately establish a safespot and then do some quick basic scans of the system to see what potential it has.  If it looks like a go, assemble the expedition.

Much of the logistics will depend on who wants to participate in this little adventure, but I’m initially trying to plan so that 2 people with 4 total accounts can set up a base of operations that will be self sufficient for the duration of the stay in the wormhole.

Maximum utility and minimum mass is key.  Likewise, a big point of the expedition is to obtain minerals, gasses and other booty that we cant find in high sec where we operate, so having some hauling capacity will be key as well.

Plan A will be to bring in an Orca with the vast majority of necessary items.  Even with its ginormous mass, in one haul it should be able to carry an entire POS set up, fuel for a few months, extra ships, ammo, etc.  Once in, the Orca can proceed to the safespot, cloak and wait for a base site to be scouted.  All the others can then meet up at the safespot and monitor wormhole traffic.

That's it?
That's it?

Wormheim

From what I’ve read, conventional wisdom suggests that a medium control tower with a collection of passive defenses should be enough in w-space.  The idea is that a) with the wormhole’s time and mass limits, you’re not likely to see too many ships of the battleship and above class and b) you don’t necessarily want to kill passers by, but rather make it a long drawn out affair to assault your station thus risking the collapse of their exit.  Turtle FTW.

Initially, I’m planning for a medium control tower, corp hangar array, ship maintenance array, refining array, research lab, and some storage and maybe a manufacturing array of an undetermined flavor.  It would be nice to be able to replenish any losses without having to leave the wormhole, but it may prove to be too much hassle.

The prober would scout a suitable moon location for the POS and then it would be anchored and put online.  Once the bubble is up, everyone can warp in and unpack while the system is scanned down fully.

In a perfect world, we’d leave a lifeboat (e.g. a cloak fitted Heron with probes) at a designated safespot, eject and return to the station.

The Expedition Fleet

First things first.  Any wormhole ship should have a probe launcher and a cloak.  You can never know when you might be the one stuck on the wrong side.

Next, versatility and survivability should be key.  Insurance would probably be worthwhile in the not so unlikely event.  Of course, any wormhole assembled ship would be without, so we should choose wisely.

  • Scouting: a Covert Ops ship would be ideal for probing, or in the alternative, a frigate like the Caldari Heron which gets scanning bonuses.  Covert Ops would be optimal in the event of a needing to use an inconvenient null or low sec wormhole exit to get back to home k-space.  Scouts would also serve as hackers and archaeologists as well.
  • Combat:  With a small group, I’d want a battlecruiser.  A Drake with a passive tech II omni tank should do it.  Tough, mass efficient and reasonably cheap.  Alternatively, a gunnery ship like the Ferox would probably work.  Probably not taking out 3 BS sleeper spawns, but probably enough firepower in a group.
  • Mining:  Undecided here.  I’m not sure I’d want to risk Hulks and Covetor/Retriever is probably too lightweight.  While great at what they do, the Hulk may be too limited in utility for w-space.  For gas cloud harvesting, I already have a Ferox set up for w-space that can easily be repurposed for mining with 5 miner IIs (no crystals to wear out) or combat.  The cost and flexibility of that platform with an almost-as-good-as-a-Drake tank makes it very attractive.
  • Local Hauling:  Cheap industrials fitted with a cloak should probably suffice.  The goal is to haul to base at the first hint of trouble.  Alternatively, if it gets popped either by a Sleeper rat or a player interloper, good luck to them.  They still have to get any loot out and they’re in our house.
  • Distant Hauling:  Getting small quantities in and out of the wormhole would be best served by a transport like an Occator (2 points built in) or a Viator (can warp cloaked).  If the exit is high sec, then a local hauler would be ok.  Given the mass budget of wormholes, its likely more efficient if a bit riskier to export minerals, etc. via multiple small industrials.
  • Salvage:  Nothing beats having a destroyer salver only a jump away.  Cheap and fast.

Funding It All

I think the entire POS set up with a few months of fuel can be bought for under 300-400 million isk, and we’d plan on using it in more than one instance.  I think I’ve convinced a corp mate to go in on it with me, so thats not that big of an investment.  Skills of course, cost what they cost to get up to snuff.  Getting to covert ops is really my main gateway at this point.  I should have a character trained on it this next week.

If I can obtain or purchase some key BPOs or BPCs, we could manufacturer any replacement ships we might need rather than haul their mass through a WH.  Stockpiling an initial cache of common ammo and modules also shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive.  Particularly if we bring BPOs or BPCs with.

The initial population would be a minimum of 4 accounts, but hopefully a few others will join us.  If all goes well, we could be ready to deploy in a weekend or two.

So what am I leaving out?

Cooking with Gas

The thing thats kept me so interested in Eve recently is that just as I’m about to be burned out on something, another mode of game play presents itself. In my case, exploration has become a new obsession. Primarily because the unknown is, well, unknown. After Apochrypha released, I ran out and grabbed a Heron, fitted it with a probe launcher, a few probes and off I went. Much to my surprise, I was able to scan down a wormhole in short order.

Times when I feel dogmatically productive, I’ll dutifully pull a mission for a faction that I need, run it, salvage it and mine it. One good mission with some decent asteroids and a corp mate or two makes a complete evening.

Other times, I feel the tug of the unknown and unseen. That’s when its time for exploration. I’m always hoping to find the mythical gravimetric site in high sec with delicious rare ores. Haven’t found any yet, but it hasn’t stopped me trying. Likewise, finding other complexes right under your nose in familiar systems I find exceedingly cool.

Of course, there’s always the wormholes as well.

This weekend I found my first “dangerous” wormhole on the unknown/dangerous/deadly scale in a high sec system. Info on the hole indicated that no one had passed through, but it was nearing the end of its life. I immediately jumped in in my wee uncloaked Heron.

After bookmarking the exit, I scanned the system. I got few immediate 100% hits for Sleeper sites which I decided not to check out. I also had a large number of fainter hits. Since the bad boy sites were closer in, I decided to scan down the outer ones.

After a few iterations, I managed to isolate a LADAR site which even in my noobness I remembered was a gas cloud site.  A “Minor Perimeter Reservoir” which consisted of two clouds of fullerenes.

I warped in to check it out and there appeared to be no Sleepers awake. From what I hear, they’ll probably show up when you return. Fortunately, I was blissfully unaware of this at the time.

Up to that point, I had heard of gas cloud harvesting but never seen any gas clouds. Worried that this wormhole was getting a bit long in the tooth, I decided to bug out but those gas clouds got me thinking… And thus yet another new direction revealed itself in Eve.

Once out, I hit the market. Fullerenes looked like they would be pretty lucrative. Training up gas cloud harvesting wouldn’t be too bad either. I just needed a platform upon which to do it.

Gas cloud harvesters are akin to mining lasers and come in Tech 1 and Tech 2 variants. My immediate thought was to fit up a battleship/miner like a Rokh or Dominix for high survivability. The more I read about wormhole exploration though, it sounded like a battleship might be too much mass, i.e., not a mass efficient platform for this operation and risk collapsing the exit wormhole prematurely.

Thoughts on the subject are varied, but conventional wisdom seems to suggest that smaller is better given the limited amount of mass that can cross through a wormhole before its collapse. While a gang of destroyers might get the gas harvested, I’m a bit worried about their survivability, especially in a small gang. Looking at this nifty chart from Aime D’Tact on Battle Clinic you can see the difference:

1 Battleship (~100,000,000) equals:
– 2.5 Hulks
– 5.5 t2 Haulers (18,000,000ish)
– 7 Command Ships (~14,000,000) with some to spare
– 7.5 logistics ships (~13,300,000)
– 8.3 HACs (~12,000,000) (some hacs are as small as 11,000,000)
– ~8.3 t1 cruisers (12,000,000)
– ~9 Haulers (they vary by a fair bit)
– ~60 Destroyers
– ~75 t2 frigates
– ~100 t1 frigates

For Comparison (figures approximate):
2 Black Ops : 3 Battleships (black Ops are 150, Battleships are 100)
1 Orca : 2.5 Battleships
1 Carrier : 10 Battleships
1 Dread : 10 Battleships
1 Freighter or JF : 11 Battleships
1 Mothership : 12-3 Battleships
1 Roquel : 12 battleships
1 Titan : 15-18 battleships

At 2.5x the mass of a BS, I think the Orca is definitely out as a support platform so that leaves hauling to ordinary industrials.  Smaller, faster and cheaper.  Given the size of gas, I don’t think I’d need much more (nor would I want to risk it).

I considered repurposing my venerable Osprey for the task of gas cloud mining, but in a small, time-limited, mass-limited operation, its limited high slots and limited tank didn’t seem like enough. So I came up with a compromise that I hope will work: The Gas Clound Mining Ferox.

I give you the "Cumulonoobulous"
I give you the "Cumulonoobulous"

I was able to to fit 5 harvesters, a cloak and probe launcher in the highs while using the mids and lows for a passive Tech II omni tank.

The plan isn’t to get into any battles, but it would be nice to be able to make it to a safe spot or the exit wormhole.  As a battlecruiser, its mass is only about 14 million which is only a bit more than a T1 cruiser, but substantially less than a BS.

I’ve yet to find a LADAR site to try it out on, but it also makes for a decent prober. Easy enough to warp in and check things out without fear of getting one shotted.

Now, if I can only find another LADAR site!