I will survive

"If you go to lowsec you will die." Say that aloud in your best Kosh impression. Sounds a bit silly, doesn't it? I've heard many NPC Corp old-timers recite this like a spell of doom whenever there is a newbie around asking about low security space. The merits of this practise as a way to dismiss a clueless newbie as quickly as possible are probably best left undisputed. But that said, I have to disagree that it would actually depict the lowsec accurately or in a funny way.

Of course dying is always a real possibility and thus, given enough time, everyone will eventually face death whether they accept it or not. There are some rare occasions where nothing can be done to avoid it but that wrong place at the wrong time might just aswell occur in high security space. The possibility of death can be significantly reduced by taking proper precautions. For example never going AFK and never using autopilot increases the chance of survival immensely in lowsec. Yet some people have managed to not die even if they are quilty of such blatant crimes against common sense. Obviously the chance of losing a ship in lowsec tends to get somewhat exaggerated.

Eventhough there is no CONCORD to help the victims of non-consensual PVP the sentry guns around every stargate and station do respond to criminal activity. Unless foolishly giving the pirates a chance to legitimate combat by stealing or shooting, your ship will be quite safe from any small ships by staying in range of the sentry guns. Bigger ships that are able to tank the sentries can pose a serious problem if you aren't able to warp out faster than they get a target lock on you. Flying a frigate through a gatecamp is usually safe. (Yes, I have done that more than once.) Shuttles and pods are almost invulnerable unless they land on a smartbomb disco or get lagged out. Fortunately smartbombing is uncommon. For a rational mind it all boils down to risk versus reward. If flirting with death is a reward for you like it is to me you will find yourself flying around in lowsec just for shits and giggles. Also, being the curious cat I am I just had to go see it as that's the only real way to find out what lowsec actually is.

So there I was, entering low security space again. This time it was not going to be a hasty trip in and out to fetch yet another skillbook I had bought without checking the security status of the system where it was sold. Neither was it going to be a quick flyby on the shortest route from A to B. This was going to be lowsec for real. I warped my rifter through the first couple system. Local channel showed around a dozen people in both. In the third system there was only one besides me. This started to look like a place where I could dare to explore beyond the protection of sentry guns.

While warping through the system the other person left and I had the system to myself. It was connected to 3 other lowsec systems and 1 highsec. There were no stations and only 6 asteroid belts. I went to see what the belt rats look like in lowsec. I came across some frigates and destroyers in the first belt. Second belt was empty, only a bunch of huge asteroids in there just like in the first one. On the third belt I found wrecks. Someone had been hunting rats there and apparently he ended up being hunted aswell - there was an Amarr battlecruiser wreck. I salvaged it and got a bunch of armor plates, not bad. To make hiding easier I made a safespot bookmark in midwarp while moving to the next belt. The bookmarking function found in the people & places window sure is handy. The fourth belt was empty. On the way to the fifth belt someone entered the system. I checked info and found out the guy had positive security status. Probably not a pirate. The fifth belt had a battleship sized rat with frigate escorts. The bounty on the Serpentis Baron seemed quite juicy as was the thought of the possible salvage I could pull off from it's wreck. But with someone lurking around I did not engage, I wasn't even sure if my little rifter had enough firepower to take it down...

I used directional scanner to gather more intel, scanning at maximum range and 360 degrees. There was a Myrmidon class battlecruiser in the system and it was closer than 14.35 AUs. I adjusted the range to 1 AU and scanner showed the battlecruiser again. Thinking he might be closing in on me I turned on my tail and warped to the safespot I had made, just to be sure. Sitting in the safespot my scanner showed no sign of him or any combat scanner probes so I relaxed and assessed the situation while hoping he would just move on to the next system. Myrmidon is a droneboat and a flock of small scout drones could easily catch and tear me to pieces so flying under it's guns would not be safe - engaging it would be madness. I checked info on Myrmidon to get a more detailed picture. It is slow to warp and align so it couldn't possibly catch anything as nimble as my rifter as long as I would keep warping around. Even with a sensor booster or two fitted a Myrmidon couldn't get a lock in the time it would take me to turn and flee should I decide to wait long enough to see it arrive. I concluded we posed no threat to each other and decided to check the sixth belt. Because it was out of scanner range I couldn't tell if he would be waiting there for me to land on his feet so I warped to 50 km. No Myrmidon, just a lone rat cruiser. 1 AU check on directional scanner with nothing showing up gave me enough confidence to engage the rat. While watching it go down I checked on directional scanner a couple times. The Myrmidon left system and I was alone to loot and salvage the rat in peace. I go through the belts again, ratting away the smaller targets before returning to the fifth belt to try my guns on the Serpentis Baron. The frigate escorts were easy to take out first while the clumsy big rat kept missing me completely.

Just as I was turning on the battleship someone arrived in the system almost immediately followed by the guy who was here earlier. A third one soon followed so it was safespot time again. Checking directional scanner in midwarp showed he was still flying the Myrmidon and another of the guys was in a shuttle. One of them had negative security status, but there was no sign of them or any probes so I felt safe. Soon one left the system, then another. Only the Myrmidon was left so I returned to the fifth belt warping in at 70 km. I approached the rat but kept at a distance in order to lure it away from the belt while staying out of it's range. Getting it far enough would buy me time if someone warped to the scene while I was fighting. Satisfied with the distance to the belt and even more satisfied with the Myrmidon leaving again I attacked the rat and got the shields down in two minutes or so. The armor on that beast gave away painstakingly slowly and regenerated to nearly full health while I reloaded my autocannons.

Checking the directional scanner every now and then whenever someone showed up in the system started to grow into a routine. I was getting bold enough to let people pass by without warping into the safespot every time like a mouse scared silly. Then two pilots entered the system from a nearby gate, a Harbinger and a Hurricane. They were closer than 150000 km so I didn't take any chances and warped to my safespot. Both had -10 security status and they were in the same corp. I anticipated I might have to abandon the system soon, but didn't see them or any probes around. In a few minutes they left and I returned to my rat killing project. It was still there but had regenerated all armor and almost half of shields. I suspected I might not have enough ammunition left to get the job done but decided to try it anyway. I got it to armor but again a ship appeared. A Vagabond piloted by someone with outlaw sec status, but not -10 yet... and he was coming straight for me! Just as I warp off I get to see a glimpse of red on my overview. Again I wait patiently while making sure no ship or probe is getting close. I realize I don't have enough ammunition left to get that rat even if it still is there. But I might get the loot or salvage, maybe the HAC pilot wouldn't bother collecting them... So I wait just a little bit longer and he leaves. To my disappointment, the Serpentis Baron was gone too.

I returned to highsec only a couple million ISK richer, but the experience I gained was priceless.


Put a probe in your probe

While chatting with a very experienced spacefarer I heard tales about treasures of immense value hidden deep in space. So deep that they would have to be probed out. Using scan probes would require skill in astrometrics. Eager to get quick results I tried to use the on-board scanner equipped on every ship. I warped to planets and scanned the surroundings. I found nothing but didn't give up. I jumped to another system and went through the planets there. On the second planet my scanners picked something up. A serpentis den!

I warped in with my rifter and found 2 destroyers, 2 frigates and 2 heavy missile batteries. They were too much for a very agile but somewhat flimsy frigate and I had to warp off quickly. I fetched my reliable thrasher and tried again. Howitzer artillery easily took out the ships, but more appeared as soon as the ones present had been dealt with. This time it was cruisers and an assortment of frigates. With my shields completely gone and the missile batteries still firing holes into my armor I had no choice but to warp off. After licking my wounds I warped back in and concentrated on taking out the batteries. I managed to take them out, but had to warp off again. Without the constant missile fire things were a bit more manageable, nevertheless there were waves after waves of Serpentis ships. I had to warp off countless times as the shield booster sucked my capacitor dry. The Serpentis cruisers used sensor dampening which didn't help either. After the ships stopped coming I counted 22 wrecks total and 9 of them cruisers. There was no doubt this scanning business would beat ratting in an asteroid belt, hands down.

After training astrometrics I fitted my rifter with scan probe launcher and some core scanner probes. With my skill level I could only launch 4 probes at a time, but it was enough to find some looted serpentis explosive debris. In that desolate site I found containers which could be accessed by using the salvager on them. Value of the salvage was about 1.6 million ISK. Easy money. But to really cash in on scanning I would need much more skills - hacking and archaeology to access different types of containers and astrometric acquisition, pinpointing and rangefinding to reach results faster and more reliably. Easy way to better results would be to use a ship with bonus to scan strength of probes. Minmatar have the probe. Funny...


My first real kill

I shot Svenja Hodenmumps yesterday. Earlier she had shown up red on the overview so I was fairly certain she had stolen loot from me. I thought to return the favor. Only later it occurred to me that Svenja might have just shot at someone innocent and gotten criminally flagged by that transgression. Whichever it was the kill was justified. Besides, she was a Caldari. Obviously she had it coming.

Svenja was mining into a jetcan with someone who was in an osprey. The only container there belonged to her companion so I was forced to steal from him. I took an insignificant amount of veldspar and warped away in my rifter, ready to give it back should he prove to be a reasonable guy. Svenja evemailed me almost instantly and arrogantly threatened to kill me if I did that again. I snickered and replied that she would have to catch me first. I waited for the aggression timer to end, browsing the web to pass the time. Before undocking I quickly checked ship details about cormorant and osprey. It didn't seem they would pose a serious problem.

I returned to their mining spot. Foolishly they had not abandoned it. She hailed me by targeting my ship. I orbited at a distance, gauging their ships. Svenja had rail guns and mining lasers. I closed in on their jetcan and the guy in osprey targeted me too. Unreasonable. The container belonged to Svenja so I grabbed some ore to get aggression. She opened fire immediately. Big mistake! I locked her while moving into a close orbit, activated the warp disruptor and returned fire. Her shields went down fast, but armor seemed to hold a little longer. For my surprise her friend attacked me despite the fact that we were in high security space. While I reduced the cormorant into metal scrap I got to watch concord do the same to the osprey.

Their failure was entertaining, but I was not finished yet. I think I got one of those notorious Sebiestor cruel streaks... eventhough I barely received any damage to my shields I felt their audacity to actually shoot at me was completely unwarranted and should not go unpunished. So I looted their wrecks and transfered all the ore to my own container. I went to drop the loot to the station and returned to check if they were either dumb enough to try getting the ore back or bold enough to try getting revenge. Svenja was there, in a pod. I scared her off by target locking the pod. Her companion came back in a badger but dared not take any ore while I was still present. Victory tasted sweet however small it was.


Infinite impossibilities

The mission arcs left me with a feeling that some agent would soon ask me to do something. But they don't. I have to go ask the agents for something to do and so far what they propose has been something less than challenging. Compared to the epic arc these level 1 missions seem all too easy and repetitive. I'm ready to take on more challenges, but the level 2 agents I want aren't available yet. There are some short mission arcs with a more robust plotline and backstory, but mostly it's just standalone missions which fail to deliver a feeling of true involvement. Grinding through 16 missions gives an important storyline mission with increase in faction standings, but the gain in standings is double-edged, no matter what faction you chose to work for some other will like you less for doing so. Limited implants are a typical reward for these level 1 storylines, but they are of little use since I already have all except charisma at +2 and the plan is to get the standard +3 implants for most important attributes as soon as I finish training the required level of cybernetics.

The wormholes and tech 3 ships are certainly going to be out of my league for a long time. However, in league or not I did see a wormhole last week. Someone who had scanned it down left a bookmark at a station undock point and of course I just couldn't resist taking it and having a look 15 minutes later. The possibility of losing a ship to pirate campers or just being stranded in W-space didn't entice me, though, so I chose not to enter.

Besides missioning, hunting NPC pirates, also called ratting, is an option for collecting bounties, loot and salvage. NPC pirates can be found in the asteroid belts, unless the system security is very high. The rats in 0.8 security are suitable for a complete newbie, but the rewards of hunting there are low. For a two weeks old flying a destroyer 0.5 seems like the place to be, plenty of rats and almost decent bounties on them. Occasionally a pirate commander spawns at an asteroid belt. Commanders are tougher nuts to crack and have a significant bounty on them. The loot is better too, quite often 1000 rounds of faction ammo among other things. My salvaging skill isn't high enough to salvage commander wrecks so it is possible that the salvage is particularly juicy. The rewards increase as the security goes down and apparently the rats in lowsec would offer a decent fight for someone of my caliber. I'm just not ready to take on the player pirates I would be bound to meet should I venture there...


The Blood-Stained Stars

The length of this arc is indeed epic! There is a total of 52 missions divided into 7 chapters and scattered around all four empires. I'm not going to spoil anyones fun by blurting out a synopsis for this mission arc, no worries, this will be all technical.

The missions start out rather easy but slowly get more difficult. A couple of the missions gave me a formidable challenge, but I managed to go through them without losing any ships or having to ask others for help. I had to warp out of missions to save my ship a few times. Agent mission rewards for completing the arc sum up to 8 million ISK. Mission time bonuses are pitifully low. Loot and salvage are good compared to the tutorial arcs. End of chapter missions weren't harder than the others and didn't offer any special rewards. Completing the arc didn't yield any epic rewards either, which is a shame.

When I started the arc there were nearly 100 pilots in Arnon and someone asked what are they all doing there. He told the system used to be sleepy backwaters, with local counting around 10. Not all the people were newbies, the novelty had attracted older players as well. Some of them were helping out those having difficulties in their missions, some were recruiting or otherwise advertising their corporation. Soon more came and the can baiting and duelling right next to station formed a constant spectacle. I marked some of the griefers by changing my standings towards them so I could be wary of anything they had jettisoned. When I managed to finish the arc there were already over 200 pilots buzzing in the system. Today local peaked at 300 and lag started to rear it's ugly head.

First one of the more difficult missions was Lair of the snakes from the Automaton impediment chapter. I completed it succesfully in my rifter, but the serpentis pirates gave out a tough fight. In fact, so tough that I started to think about upgrading to a destroyer right away. Soon I bought and fitted the Relentless Kitten (thrasher). Sporting that fine piece of killing machinery I didn't encounter any serious problems until Burning down the hive from the Queens and drones chapter. I closed in on the drones and found my destroyer webified and warp scrambled. I couldn't move or escape and they were eating my fat shields at an alarming rate. I thought I would soon lose the ship, but didn't give up. I concentrated on taking out the scramblers which weren't exactly of the lock and pop variety and warped out as soon as I could, shields completely gone and a dent on the armor. The next run was more manageable and I didn't go into armor.

By the amount of help requests I had witnessed in local chat I thought that Chasing shadows from the Closing in chapter was going to be tough. Nevertheless, I decided to go bravely in my destroyer and found myself facing a battlecruiser supported by a group of frigates! I kept my cool, closed in quickly and started peppering the beast with autocannons. It's shields came down disappointingly slowly. On the bright side, I was orbiting so close it had difficulties dealing damage to me. It used an energy neutralizer and the capacitor was soon empty. My afterburner shut down but luckily the autocannons weren't affected. I was still orbiting fast enough to avoid getting seriously hit and the frigates didn't pose a problem. The battlecruiser went down under my relentless assault.

Learning the ropes

I spent some time honing my overview settings. I made tabs for different things, one for navigation (showing the gates and stations and nothing more), one to show everything (so I can find things which are not shown on other tabs) and one for combat. Using the overview to quickly identify and lock targets is so much easier when there's no useless distracting debris in there.

The Knowledge Base and EVElopedia are real treasure troves of EVE knowledge, but digging up what I need to know can take some time. The search function seems to give better results in the wiki, but the knowledge base is far less cluttered with links so the text is easier to read.

There's certainly a steep learning curve involved in this game...

I have learned that scamming and baiting are part of the game experience. All over the market people are trying to sell items at ludicrous prices and buy them at ridiculously low prices and no matter where I go, at some point someone in local chat is trying to trick people into donating him ISK promising they get it back doubled. As if! I have seen a hapless newbie fall for a dirty trick: he took from a container named 'needed for mission' and got shot. Clear-eyed newbies are not safe from pirates either, not even in high security space. I have also seen a wreck of a battleship at a gate and looted large smartbomb modules from it. Losing a battleship, taking a blow in security status and giving someone kill rights was probably worth the loot on that someone's hauler. The space is a very cold place with pirates waiting in front of every safe haven.


Ore theft

After breezing through more than 20 missions I wanted some excitement. I headed back where I started to see if there was anything interesting. Someone had left a container at the station so I checked inside. Some loot, nothing fancy, but why not take it? There was a popup explaining that if I did that it would be stealing and thieves could be dealt with. Overview told me the station was at docking range so I took the loot anyway and docked immediately. I got free stuff, but there was a 15 minute aggression timer. If I undocked the person I stole from could start shooting at me without CONCORD intervention. I had seen corpses around the station before, could I share their fate for this? I spent the next 15 minutes reading EVE Knowledge Base while feeling a bit like a criminal, but not at all in a bad way.

Now that wasn't exactly what I would call exciting, so after the timer was up I undocked and warped to an asteroid belt. As this was in the high end of high security space there were no NPC pirates to be found. Just a couple of miners in there drilling the rocks away. Most were newbies like me. They were just snailpacing onwards on their path to prosperity while I intended to find the fastlane to fame and glory. I even found a hulk in one of the belts, stripping the asteroids bare with it's huge beams...

I continued to go through the belts until I saw another container, right next to a mining frigate. I was curious so I looked inside - there was more veldspar in there than I could possibly squeeze into the rifter I was flying. The container was owned by the guy right next to it, the one flying the the measly mining frigate. I bookmarked the can, took some of the ore and then quickly warped back to station just to be sure. It wasn't much, but stealing it was a bit exciting. I went straight back to the bookmark to take some more. The guy stopped mining and warped off. He wrote to the local chat that there was a scary pirate flashing red at the belt he just left. I wasn't sure what was going to happen so I headed back to the station and stayed in there for a while thinking about the whole thing. Stealing in a frigate wouldn't be profitable. I would need a vulnerable industrial ship to commit the Grand Theft Ore and that could be risky. A full load of dense veldspar on a wreathe would be worth around half a million ISK. Would that be worth ruining the day for a complete stranger? Could I do that all day long? Probably not.