Monday, 27 October 2014

Post Hyperion Analysis

A couple of months ago I posted a set of predictions about how Wormhole space would change after the Hyperion update. The predictions were not massively far reaching, but I feel it's worth looking back at them and trying to see how accurate they were, followed by a look at how things have shaken out - at least from my perspective.

The predictions I made were:

  • W-space combat meta could shift somewhat
  • There would be fewer capital engagements in w-space
  • There would be less rage-rolling
  • Wormhole chains would be longer
  • There would be an increase in the risk of running PvE sites
  • C4 residents would move out and new ones move in as the C4 landscape changed

Unfortunately CCP have not yet provided any statistics about what the consequences of the wormhole changes have been - despite the wormhole CSM representative bugging CCP Fozzie about it;

So we have to make do with the information we can glean from our observations and the limited data available to us. By their nature the observations of players are biased towards what they expect, and are limited in scope to what is in their surroundings. Many of the overarching statistics that have been available in the past on wormhole space systems were removed from the API a many updates ago, and so getting an overall picture of the activity in wormhole space is more difficult than it would have been with jump statistics and NPC kills statistics.

My original intent was to go through each of my prediction points and comment on their accuracy individually, but the changes have impacted many of them in the same ways. Nevertheless, I will attempt to group them up and address them on group at a time, where applicable.

C4 Resident Roundabout

I would categorise this prediction as spot on; although it is not particularly surprising that that is the case. Immediately prior to the Hyperion release I saw a large number of class 4 system residents moving out of their home residents as the test server allowed them to identify what their static was and whether I was to their liking - my own wormhole group was one of these corporations, looking to move somewhere to get a better income stream.

Another data point, though not highly scientific, is that after the Hyperion release I have yet to find any Class 4 systems where is correct on the current residents!

Less Rage Rolling

Since the update there have been noticeably fewer people rolling wormhole links than there previously were. While the removal of the jumps data from the API means that hard data about the number of jumps in wormhole systems is no longer available, it was normal to encounter a few links over the course of the evening that had been rolled or where people were observed in thru act of rolling. Since the Hyperion release our scouts have only encountered a handful of links that we know have been rolled, and only seen two groups actually roll a wormhole link.

Fewer Capital Engagements

This data can still be obtained from killboards but takes some effort to pull together. A tweet from a community members who has crunched the data suggests that month on month the number of capital ships lost has fallen dramatically.

This is not, however, comparing the same month from one year to another, and there are other pressures within Eve that cause fluctuations in activity from month to month.

Longer Wormhole Chains

I expected the new frigate wormhole links, additional statics for Class 4 systems and an increased incidence of wandering wormhole links to result in longer wormhole chains, but it is safe to say I didn't expect chains to grow to their current extent. It is quite normal to find five or more inbound links to a wormhole system; recently our home system had nine inbound links. Wormhole space is now massively connected, more so than any other space in Eve, if bridging and jumping abilities are not taken into account. I would now go so far as to characterize wormhole space as having webs, rather than chains.

W-space combat meta and PvE site running risks

Since the Hyperion release the number of ships that our scouts have seen active in wormhole space have dropped off massively. Since the patch has hit we have only seen five groups of pilots running sites in wormhole space. The number of groups we have seen who are trying to get into combat situations are so low that we cannot draw any conclusions about significant changes to the w-space combat meta. The killboards of other wormhole space corporations suggest that the Hyperion changes to mass based spawn distances have not shaken out in the way I expected; there has not been a significant shift towards 100MN kiting cruisers. So I'll call that one hit and one miss.


While some of my predictions were broadly correct and others clearly wrong, I am more concerned at the moment with the overall health of wormhole space. The amount of activity that my corporation has seen is massively reduced compared to the pre-Hyperion levels that we observed. Our own methods of moving and hunting through wormhole space have changed significantly with the patch, and my suspicion is that other corporations are finding the same problems that we have encountered.

Our normal methods of operation, as can be gathered from other posts in this blog, are to scout our targets carefully and field an appropriate force to engage them. Our disadvantage in numbers is made up for by an advantage in intel on our opponents; we seek to win the fight and then have it.

Since the Hyperion release almost every evening has started with our scouts logging in to find inbound links to home system. This indicates that hostile forces have opened the link, and there is a good chance that we have unfriendly eyes watching our starbase, watching our system, looking for our pilots as they log on. Prior to Hyperion this happened as well, of course, but there were some key differences.

Before Hyperion, if we had an inbound link we would send a scout to investigate it and the onward links to see if there were any particularly menacing entities in the wormhole chain. We would look at any likely aggressors, and try and identify if they were present. We would add their pilots to watch lists to see how many were online, and look at their killboards to identify which ships they were likely to attack and see if we could bait them out. If we determined that they weren't around any longer and our baiting attempts were unsuccessful, we would use an Orca and battleships to roll the link as quickly as possible to reduce exposure to potential risk.

In a post-Hyperion Eve, our home system does not have a single inbound link, it has two. Or sometimes four. Or on one recent occasion, as I have mentioned, nine. And each of those inbound link has a multitude of links into it, and they have a multitude of links into them. We simply don't have the manpower to scan down the number of links that are present, and so can't obtain a picture of how much risk we exposed to at any given time.

Without that intel, we are paralyzed. Unknown space is truly unknown, and that means we have nothing to base our decisions on. It may be different for other groups, but we came to w-space for methodical, careful combat, where intelligence gathering and outwitting your opponent were key. Now, it's a roll of the dice, and you don't even know how many sides it's got, or who you are playing against, or what you need to roll to win.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Your First Wormhole: System Selection

This is the second post in the Your First Wormhole series; it will be examining the different choices available to you when you are trying to work out what your ideal wormhole system will be.

The selections available are combinations of five variables;
  • System class
  • Static class
  • Wormhole effects present
  • Planets present
  • System topology
There are different combinations that are particularly effective for certain styles of play - I'm going to take a look through the system effects, planet configurations and system topology considerations first before moving onto different system classes and their statics.

Wormhole System Effects

Wormhole system effects can have significant impact on the choice of fleet doctrines for both PvP and PvE. A fleet tailored for the system effect in a given home system will generally provide the defenders with a significant home field advantage, and so might be considered a good thing to recommend for newer corporations as they can focus on a particular set of skills that complement their home system.

Although that is the case, you can end up in a situation where newer players who have specialized in the 'wrong' type of ship get penalized; a character with only turret skills in a Black Hole, for instance. It is worth noting that wormhole system effects do not affect Sleeper NPCs and so they can give an advantage to site running. The effectiveness of wormhole system effects scales up with wormhole class; a good reference point for the exact effect values is the Hyperion wormhole update blog.

  • Magnetars give a straight bonus to damage, albeit with penalties to tracking speed, range, explosion velocity and the effectiveness of target painters. In simple terms, you'll have more problems tracking and hitting smaller classes ships - whether they be Sleeper NPCs or players - but there will be more damage damage applied to targets you can hit.
  • Red Giants provide a bonus to the effects of overheating, smartbomb damage and range, and the damage of bombs fired from bomb launchers. The only penalty they provide is to the amount of heat damage that modules take when being overloaded, so this is actually a fairly 'vanilla' wormhole type for most intents.
  • Pulsars provide an increase in raw shield hitpoints (and therefore the passive recharge rate of shields), the rate at which capacitors recharge, and the drain amount of energy nosferatus and neutralizers. Their penalties affect armour resistances and the signature radius of ships. Given that the majority of wormhole groups use armour tanking fleet doctrines, having a system that applies penalties to the 'standard' setup while taking that into account with your home defense fleet can give a massive home defense advantage.
  • Wolf Rayets boost armour hitpoints and small weapon damage, while reducing the signature radius of ships and shield resistances. Obviously using shield ships in here is a Bad Idea™. The bonus to small weapon damage is massive, ranging from +60% to +200% (or triple base damage), and while that makes setting up a frigate-based defence fleet very tempting and effective, it does mean that any site running is at significant risk from any frigate-size wormholes that link into the system.
  • Cataclysmic Variables reduce the effectiveness of local armour and shield repairs, remote capacitor transfers and capacitor recharge time. They have bonuses to the capacity of ships' capacitors and to the effectiveness of remote shield and armour repairers. This can make it more difficult to run sites solo if fits are relying on active local tanks, but can give a bit of a boost if you are intending to use spider tanking.
  • Black Holes have been significantly changed in the Hyperion release; they have bonuses to ship speed, targetting range, the velocity of missiles and the velocity of missile explosions - increasing missile range and the effectiveness of missiles against fast targets. Meanwhile they have negative effects on the strength of stasis webifiers and on the manoeuvrability of ships. This combination has made Black Hole systems into a missile kiters dream, while severely impacting the effectiveness of turret based ships.

In general, for a first wormhole system I would suggest shying away from a wormhole system with an effect in it. If you feel compelled to do so, Pulsars, Red Giants or Magnetars are probably the more accommodating system effects.

Planets Present

In general, wormhole systems that have all of the planets required for producing prerequisites for POS fuel are more desirable than those without. They command a higher price when being sold, and are generally in higher demand. Also a concern is the number of planets present - the more planets available in a system the better a base it will make for planetary interaction as there will be a greater total amount of resources available for harvest.

Although raw materials for POS fuel are a concern, it doesn't mean that wormholes without the perfect mix of POS fuel planets are useless - far from it. If a system is primarily being used as a base for planetary interaction and goods manufacture, there will likely be a large number of industrial ships heading out with the finished products for sale. If they fly back with fuel instead of empty no additional hauling is required - although there is an increase in the overall risk as a returning hauler will (on average) be worth a great deal more.

System Topology

Something that first-time inhabitants of wormhole space often overlook is the topology of the system and whether it serves their needs. Systems where everything is within range of the directional scanner are great if you are playing "defensively" - that is, if you are looking to be alerted to people entering the system so that you can get the hell out of the way. Systems that are more spread out are better suited to groups that are more predatory; they provide inhabitants with the opportunity to bring more forces online and move people into or out of the system when they are out of directional scan range of opposing players.

System Class & Static

Class 1 wormhole systems have a single static known-space wormhole link. All links into or out of a Class 1 system have a maximum mass of 20,000,000kg which limits ships that can enter them to Battlecruiser hulls or below, with the exception of the Nestor Battleship. This has the side effect of making the wormhole links extremely time consuming and haphazard to roll, so typically Class 1 system inhabitants are stuck with whatever links they have when they log in - they are unable to control the links into their system effectively. They have a reasonably high incidence of wandering links connecting them to high-sec space.
  • High-sec static Class 1 systems are often used by small industrial groups, both for planetary interaction and for POS manufacture and research.
  • Low-sec static Class 1 systems are primarily used by groups that intend to make money from planetary interaction and find their PVP by roaming in low-sec. These systems are no-where near as isolated as Class 1 systems with null-sec statics as they don't have to deal with warp disruption bubbles when dealing with logistics, and will end up with their static one or two jumps out of high-sec space reasonably frequently.
  • Null-sec static Class 1 systems are rarely occupied. In my experience any inhabitants are usually extremely small corps that don't want to be disturbed, occasionally run their sites and do planetary interaction. They will then run out their ill-gotten gains via wandering high-sec links whenever they appear, and normally operate out of small towers to reduce the logistics burden.
Class 2 wormhole systems have two static wormhole links - one to known space and one to another wormhole space system. Links into Class 2 systems can take ships up to and including the Orca, so Battleships can be brought into the system and the links can be rolled much more easily.

Sites in Class 2 systems pay out both inconsistently and relatively poorly, as the majority of the isk from them comes in the form of Melted Nanoribbons. Melted Nanoribbons are a random salvage drop that has fallen from a high water mark of around 8 million isk to a current level of 4 million, severely impacting the profitability of lower-end wormhole space.
  • Class 1 and High-sec static Class 2 systems are typically used by industrial groups or very small corporations who want to test the water in wormhole space and see what it entails. It allows them to get used to scanning, setting up player owned starbases, and generally living where everything and everyone is trying to kill them.
  • Class 2 and Low-sec static Class 2 systems are frequently used by small corporations who are in wormhole space to live off the land and PvP, or larger PvP groups that have alternative income streams. Although there is not a huge amount of money to be made from farming the static link, the combination of low-security space and highly connected wormhole space systems means that that Class 2 systems with C2/LS static links used to be one of the favoured retreats for players who wanted as much sub-capital small-gang combat as they could get. Since the Hyperion release and dual-static class four systems this has changed to an extent, but if you have the money from other sources and want to shoot people, this type of system is still a great place to be based.
  • Class 3 and High-sec static Class 2 systems are one of the most desirable wormhole systems for small corporations who want to make money from wormhole sites without giving up the convenience of access to high-security space. The static C3 link can be rolled using Orcas or Battleships to get access to new Class 3 sites to run, and the difficulty of the sites in the static means they can be run relatively easily with small groups or by individuals.
  • Class 4 and High-sec static Class 2 systems used to mainly be populated by groups who wanted to use their Class 4 static link for site-running, as with the C3/HS static systems, but Hyperion has changed their utility significantly. Post-Hyperion Class 2 systems with a Class 4 static provide a great PvP opportunity, as the Class 4 system will have two w-space links that can be used to look for targets. Simultaneously the static hi-sec link means that a lot of the logistics issues in wormhole space are significantly eased, and any pilots that lose their pods in PvP somewhere down the wormhole chain can usually get back into the home system without having to traverse hostile systems. The static Class 4 can still be used for site-running, but the high cost of the ships required to run C4 sites in small numbers can make this a relatively risky proposition.
  • Class 5 and Null-sec static Class 2 systems are rarely occupied; the Null-sec static can be good for organizing roams, but the Class 5 static link doesn't provide a huge advantage compared to a Class 4 for making isk given capital escalations are not available. Class 5 resident corporations will generally have a much larger income and a higher number of active pilots than those resident in a C2; something to take into account if you are looking to move into one.
  • Class 6 and Null-sec static Class 2 systems are rarely occupied, and are the same as static C5/NS Class two systems in most particulars.
Class 3 wormhole systems have a single known-space static link. Links into Class 3 wormhole systems can take ships up to and including the Orca. As there are no Class 3 systems with w-space static links, they are similar to C1 systems in that they are usually less-connected to wormhole space than other classes of wormhole system. Unlike Class 1 systems, Class 3 systems can support larger ships through their links and so are more likely to be used as a transit route to known space for other wormhole inhabitants that link into them.
  • High-sec static Class 3 systems are generally inhabited by small corporations with a handful of active members on at any given time. Home system sites will be run to make isk, often alongside industry and planetary interaction.
  • Low-sec static Class 3 systems are often found unoccupied. Most occupants are similar to those found in C3/HS systems but with either a desire for PvP availability through a low-security space link or because either they are less concerned about the risks of low sec than most industrialists, or their industrial work benefits directly from low-sec markets.
  • Null-sec static Class 3 systems are usually unoccupied. They provide few advantages for industrialists compared to having a low-sec or high-sec static link
Class 4 wormhole systems have two wormhole-space static links. Links into Class 4 wormhole systems can take ships up to and including the Orca. There are a huge number of combinations of the two static wormhole link types, so for any given combination, combine the comments below.
  • Class 1 static links provide a Class 4 system with sites for newer pilots to run solo or in very small groups. The income is not amazing, but some measurements put it as better isk per hour than running Class 2 system sites. One issue with a Class 1 link is the aforementioned difficulty of rolling it; this can leave the inhabitants of the C4 in a situation where their back door is ajar, can't be easily shut, and any activity they take part in is at risk. This necessitates leaving a pilot by the link in case a hostile fleet comes knocking.
  • Class 2 static links provide a Class 4 system with a great opportunity for PVP hunting in wormhole space; C2 chains can run for many, many systems and Class 2 systems are reasonably heavily occupied. The sites in the C2 can be run by newer pilots solo for some income if they want to supplement what they make from home system sites with the rest of the group.
  • Class 3 static links provide a Class 4 system with an excellent potential income stream for solo pilots and a chance to get a direct link to a useful known-space system (whatever your definition of 'useful' might be). From personal experience there is less chance of combat happening in Class 3 systems unless you manage to luck into someone running some sites in the system.
  • Class 4 static links provide a Class 4 system with another two w-space links to branch out of - Class 4 systems with a Class 4 static provide one a real hub for scouting out w-space and looking for targets of opportunity. Given the number of links in Class 4 as of writing, running sites may not be the safest of passtimes.
  • Class 5 static links provide a Class 4 system with sites that are more lucrative than those in the home system, although not by a great deal. As most Class 5 and 6 residents will have capital ships available to them, engaging the residents in PvP on their home turf will rarely be a good idea unless you are well prepared.
  • Class 6 static links provide a Class 4 system with the same 'benefits' that are provided by a static Class 5 link, but with the dials turned up a little. The residents are likely better funded and equipped, are more likely to have and use capital support, and the sites make a little more isk.
A notable combination of statics for Class 4 systems is a static C2 and C4 link; it provides the best possible combination for hunting in the sub-capital areas of wormhole space with a minimum of five w-space systems available for exploration.

Class 5 wormhole systems have a single wormhole-space static link. Links into Class 5 wormhole systems from Class 5-6 systems or from Low-sec and Null-sec known space can take ships up to and including capital ships (carriers and dreadnoughts). Links into Class 5 wormhole systems from lower-class systems are limited to the mass supported by the lower-class side of the link. Most of my experience is in lower-class wormhole systems, and so the information on these systems below is based on the words of others, not personal experience. For a group that is newly formed and has no experience of wormhole space I would recommend they not move into a Class 5 system until they have acclimatised themselves to wormhole space mechanics in general.

As links from low or null sec space or from Class 5 or 6 wormholes can carry capital ships into Class 5 systems, the inhabitants need to be prepared for capital warfare, usually by ensuring they have sufficient capital ships and pilots themselves.
  • Class 1 static Class 5 systems are typically used by corporations who wish to run sites in their home system unhindered. Even if the static link is open most corporations who are resident in Class 1 wormhole systems will see a Class 5 link and stay the hell away from it. Those that don't avoid the wormhole link like the plague are unlikely to be able to field the firepower to take down a Class 5 capital escalation group.
  • Class 2 static Class 5 systems are frequently used by PvP groups who want to be able to obtain isk by running their home system sites in relative safety. They can then use their Class 2 static to look for PvP targets or to gain access to known space for roaming or logistics purposes.
  • Class 3 static Class 5 systems are great for small groups of relatively well skilled pilots who are looking to make a large amount of isk. Home system sites can be run and escalated for cash and when the available pilot numbers are too small to run Class 5 sites, the static link can be used to run sites instead.
  • Class 4 static Class 5 systems now provide residents with a great way to get k-space systems to hunt through while providing great income from escalating home system sites.
  • Class 5-6 static Class 5 systems are used by two general types of corporations. The first are people who want to have access to more C5/6 systems to farm, although you can only get limited capital escalations in a static link and doing that is fraught with danger. The second group are those who want to find more large wormhole corporations to fight, often with expensive fits and capital ships on field.
Class 6 wormhole systems have a single wormhole-space static link. Most of my experience is in lower-class wormhole systems, and so the information on these systems below is based on the words of others, not personal experience.

That said, I can think of relatively few situations where the first wormhole system an otherwise w-space inexperienced corporation would move into is a Class 6 system. There are relatively few Class 6 wormhole systems and so getting access to a given one via rolling wormholes is significantly more viable than with other classes of space - this can make it more risky for a corporation as if they manage to irritate someone enough to come hunting for them, they will be found more easily. Corporations in a Class 6 wormhole system need to expect to engage in capital ship combat; sooner or later their opponents will be.
  • Class 1-5 static Class 6 systems are functionally similar to C5/C1-5 systems, save for the increased risk of the system being hunted down.
  • Class 6 static Class 6 systems are typically used by those who are hunting other Class 6 occupants; most of them are now unoccupied as the number of inhabitants in Class 6 space has dropped off sharply.