Friday, 14 February 2014

Introduction to Wormholes


This blog is going to look at wormhole combat in EVE Online. I'm going to be looking at different aspects of wormhole combat in detail, hopefully providing some commentary along the way that covers aspects often overlooked by other blogs and podcasts.

If you're unaware of what EVE Online is, you should probably give it a shot. If you play EVE and don't know what wormholes are, I'm slightly surprised, but this first post will hopefully give you enough of an overview.

What is Wormhole Space?

Wormhole space ("W-space") is a class of systems in EVE that have different rules to the systems in High, Low and Null security space (generally referred to as "K-space" or "known space"). These rules have effects on the type of combat that you find in wormhole space.

Instead of being linked by stargates that ships jump through, w-space systems are linked by wormholes that ships can jump through. Despite both wormhole links and gates being fundamentally a link between two systems, there are a large number of differences between them. Some of those differences affect combat at the tactical level; others affect combat at the strategic level.

Unlike k-space systems, wormhole space systems can have system effects that alter the statistics of ships within them. These are normally referred to as wormhole effects (sometimes weather, colloquially). 

Every w-space system is of a particular class. These range from Class 1 to Class 6 systems. As a general rule the higher the class of the system, the tougher the NPCs at sites within that system, the more severe any wormhole effects associated with that system, and the more mass wormhole links into and from that system can sustain.

In known space, every system has a 'local' chat channel that allows you to see all of the pilots that are currently in the system. In wormhole space this 'local' chat channel only displays pilots who have chosen to talk.

In wormhole space there are no penalties for engaging other players - as there are in low security and high security space, and a variety of other mechanics that are otherwise limited to null security space are also allowed in wormhole space.

In wormhole space there are only player owned stations; there are no stations that are owned by NPC (AI) corporations. This means there are no safe havens for pilots other than those they construct - generally at considerable expense.

NPCs in wormhole space are similar to those in known space 'Incursion sites'. They are durable, fast, and do damage of all four types ('omni' damage), they web, scramble and neutralize you in class 2 wormholes and up. The higher the class of the wormhole system, the tougher the NPCs are.

Note: One minor gotcha is that the term 'wormhole' is often used to describe both a system in wormhole space and a wormhole link between two w-space systems. In this blog I will be endeavouring to use the explicit terms "wormhole system" and "wormhole link"

What is the difference between Wormhole links and Gates?

Gates appear on your overview regardless of distance, wormhole links do not. This means that whenever you enter a system in known space, whether it be nullsec, lowsec or highsec, you always know where the links to other system are. You can select them and warp to them instantly.  In wormhole space, only a wormhole in your immediate vicinity (typically 100-500km) will show up on your overview. In order to find other wormhole links in a wormhole system, you need to use scan probes to identify their location. A guide to using scan probes can be found on the EVE Online wiki. As this is a laborious process, pilots generally use the bookmarking system to save the position of wormholes that they find. This requirement to find wormhole links using existing bookmarks or the probing system means that many ships intended for wormhole space make loadout sacrifices to accommodate a probe launcher.

Gates are permanent, wormholes are not. A gate in k-space can be jumped through an infinite number of times, and will always be in the same position, leading to the same place. The gate network is static, unless explicitly altered by the developers - although there are signs that this may change to some extent in future expansions to EVE.

Wormhole links are not permanent; they have a fixed lifespan of between 16 and 24 hours, dependent on their type, before they collapse. Additionally they have a maximum amount of total mass that can pass through them before they collapse. New wormholes spawn that link systems every so often. Wormhole systems also have what is known as a 'static' link; this is a wormhole link from a system to another system of a given class. If a static wormhole link collapses, a new wormhole link will respawn that leads to another system of the same type. To give an example:

The wormhole system J234942 has a static link to class 4 wormhole space, and a static link to high-security known space. This means that there will always be a link to class 4 wormhole space and a link to high-security space present in J234942, although the actual systems that those links connect to will change every time a wormhole link collapses and a new one spawns. This mechanic, coupled with the limit to the amount of mass that can pass through a wormhole link allows pilots to deliberately collapse a link with the knowledge that another one will spawn, known as 'rolling the hole'.

Those are the important differences from the point of view of a visitor to wormhole space and new players. But there are a host of other differences that, despite being more subtle, have a very significant impact on how wormhole combat plays out. These differences will form the main topic of the next post on The Excession.