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On the other hand, if you *do* take an army to Rancer…

Eve Uni got wardecced last week, for the first time in a while. Cue the clamouring warcries of hundreds of bloodthirsty new pilots rushing off to fit their cheap PvP ships, because everyone’s allowed out on fleet ops and many of us like to make stuff go boom.

Since everyone’s welcome, uni fleets tend to be pretty big. The first fleet that formed immediately after the war went live got so big that the FC closed it without being able to take everyone, and many of us were left in stations, to wave handkerchiefs from windows at the departing fleet and glumly polish our autocannons. It wasn’t long, though, before another fleet formed up, and with lots of “*\o/* REJECT FLEET REPRESENT!” we headed out to find some fun.

I’m not entirely sure how the next bit played out, but it went something roughly like this:

1) Fleet #1 tries to find war targets. War targets do not want to play.
2) Fleet #1 gets bored of waiting around stations for war targets to undock, heads out to lowsec to see if any pirates want to fight.
3) Pirates – specifically, the pirates who smartbomb defenceless shuttles, w0e – decide to lie in wait for Fleet #1 along the way, and massacre them with a big battleship gatecamp.
4) Fleet #1 jumps into system.
5) Pirates jump on Fleet #1.
6) Fleet #2, arriving just in the nick of time, jumps on pirates.
7) This happens.

Best first fleet experience ever.


This week in Local

I never used to pay much attention to local chat. I had it in the same window as every other chat channel, for one thing, and it seemed to alternate between silence and angry people yelling at each other, so mostly I just left it alone.

Since spending more time in lowsec, and finding out (the hard way, NOBODY TALK ABOUT THAT FIT ALL RIGHT I TOTALLY HAD A PLAN THERE) why it’s a good idea to keep local in its own window so you know exactly who else is in the system with you, I’ve come round to thinking that local might have its moments.

There are the reactions you get to the arrival of a huge Eve Uni (Ivy League) fleet:

“holy blobbalicious”

And the reactions you get to being a lone member in a shuttle, heading through lowsec to pick up some goodies:

“\o/ Ivy League, how many are behind you, 20ish?”

There are the conversations you only catch a glimpse of:
“*even more generalised response to generalised smack talk… with an American accent*”
And the ones you’re lucky enough to see all the way through:

Pilot 1: anyone in E Uni want to let us know where the fun is happening? or is it super secret
Pilot 1: wouldnt want to blow up your battle plans, etc
Pilot 2: This war is like Visa or American Express.  It’s everywhere you want to be.
Pilot 1: hm. i must have a mastercard then
Pilot 1: cause it aint here
Pilot 2: We do Mastercard too.  Leyla just found that out:   1 Month Eve Subscription, 15 dollars.  1 Tech 2 fitted rifter, 8.3 mil isk.   Getting blown up by a fleet of “newbies”:  Priceless.

And finally, among the constant rain of contract and double-your-isk scams that litter up local in the trade hubs, some still stand out – the ones that didn’t work:

Pilot 1: [Hulk+Fittings]
Pilot 2: nice scam
Pilot 3: Kind of missing the hulk there aren’t you?
Pilot 3: Don’t even have a ship, suppose I could get into my space suit and hold the mining lasers…

And the ones that really should have done (Jita local, but of course):



Stupid stuff I have done in EVE, part 1 in a series of many

The other day, set up a new character as a miner. The idea is that she’ll sit in a station training skills for 40+ days with me just logging in to adjust her training queue, until she can fly a Hulk, at which point I’ll transfer her to my main account and no asteroid will be safe ever again.

That was not the stupid thing. The stupid thing follows.

I’d transferred some money from my main account to the miner, so she could buy some implants and skill books, and here’s where things went wrong. Skillbooks were easy enough – they’re a set price at the newbie station where my aspiring miner was based. Implants, on the other hand, were a lot more expensive and worth shopping around for. So:

Step 1: Search market for +3 Memory implant.
Step 2: Find +3 Memory implant fairly cheap two jumps away. Buy it.
Step 3: Search market for +3 Intelligence implant.
Step 4: Find +3 Intelligence implant fairly cheap at another station in the same system. Buy it. Feel smug.
Step 5: Search market for +3 Perception implant.
Step 6: Doorbell rings. WOOHOO INCOMING PIZZA!
Step 7: Collect pizza, garlic bread, potato wedges. Start munching into pizza while absently looking through market browser.
Step 8: On mental autopilot, select cheapest price available and click buy before brain can catch up with fingers screaming NOOOOOOOO, and…
Step 9: Uh-oh.

Buying the cheapest item in a region is not necessarily a bad thing, but buying the cheapest item in a region without checking the location of said item first is Not Wise. I brought up the assets tab to find out where my new expensive implant was, and…

Great. It’s 16 jumps away.
Great. It’s 16 jumps away in lowsec.
Great. It’s 16 jumps away in lowsec in Rancer.

Rancer is a lowsec system on what would otherwise be a major trade route between the trade hubs of Jita and Hek. Since Rancer is a bottleneck system – one way in, one way out – and since a lot of people doing the Hek-Jita run don’t know better than to avoid it, Rancer is almost permanently occupied by opportunistic pirates who want your blood. You do not go into Rancer to shop unless you are planning to bring an army.

(Pod kills in Rancer in the last 24 hours. Dangerous? You think?)

I did not have an army. I had a newbie ship, a six-week training plan, and a 10-million isk implant sitting in the middle of doom.


Well, the good news was that I didn’t have much to lose by going to get it. I could (and probably would) lose my ship, but it was a newbie ship, they’re free anyway; I could (and probably would) get podded and wake up a clone vat, but hey, no implants, no big loss. And if I didn’t manage to get the Rancer implant, or got it but immediately lost it by having my pod blown up, well, then I’d be right back where I was now. Literally, thanks to the clone vat. DEATH AND/OR GLORY! I swapped the newbie ship for a shuttle (more agile, still cheap) and set off.

Uneventful highsec system followed uneventful highsec system, and on, and on, until lowsec Crielere – Rancer’s evil little sister. Crielere was fairly quiet, although the names in local featured far too many little outlaw skull-and-crossbones icons for comfort, and the gate into Rancer was littered with wrecks. Tempting though it was to stop off and do some looting (hey, they’ll shoot on sight anyway, right?), I hit jump and held my breath.

After passing through a jumpgate, you’re cloaked for 30 seconds – anyone on the other side of the gate will know that you came through (because the gate goes all glowy), will know who you are (because you’ll appear in local), but won’t know what you’re flying, so it’s a good time to stop and take your bearings. My bearings included a whole more wrecks, and one battleship flashing an ominous red in my overview. Security status minus-something-drastic, huge bounty, bio a few paragraphs of evangelical atheism. O-kay then. Hey, maybe if he gets me I can talk him into a ransom by discussing theodicy! Or, er, not. Anyway, there’s only one of him, so that could be worse, maybe the gatecamp broke up and they’ve all just docked to pick up some sandwiches or something, I’m in a tiny ship that warps quickly and is tough to target, score! I warp to the station where my implant lies, shuttle still in one piece.

Dock. Check list of other pilots docked in station. Oh hey, pirates, there you all are! Plug in implant, pre-emptively say goodbye to 10 million isk, undock fully expecting them to have at least somebody watching the undock ramp, but nope, nothing. Warp to gate.

So here’s the thing: if you warp towards a gate, and you’re hitting the ‘jump’ button like crazy, you should be jumping as soon as you fall out warp, making you pretty near impossible to kill…

Unless the person trying to kill you has a smartbomb, which it turned out my flashy red friend did.

So, a short word about session timers. Session timers stop you doing stuff after stuff has been done to you, or after you, yourself, have done the kind of stuff to which a session timer might apply. You cannot dock immediately after undocking; you cannot switch to ship A immediately after docking in ship B; you cannot jump back through a gate immediately after jumping through it the first time. I’d like to say that I’d remembered this at the time, and that as my shuttle crumpled around me, I was thinking about that 30-second timer preventing me from jumping after my ship was destroyed. Instead I was thinking more along the lines of “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!IMPLANT!!!!!!!!!”, but the session timer thing, that’s definitely the way it’s supposed to work. The session timer should have got me killed then and there.

However. It turns out that the session timer doesn’t kick in absolutely instantaneously. Close, but not absolutely. So if you’re manically hitting ‘jump’ like your life depends on it, that can kick in just before the timer, and… shuttle went boom, gate went zoom, and with a triumphant cry of “WHERE IS YOUR SAM HARRIS NOW?”, I’m back in Crielere, pod intact.

My alt is now docked up in high-sec once again, all kitted up with expensive implants, learning mining skills. I can’t help but think that after her first hour of life, mining’s going to be a bit of a letdown.



Exploration sites are dotted all over the galaxy, lasting for three or four days before disappearing to respawn elsewhere. To find them – or at least, to find ones worth finding – you need the following:

a) A scanner probe launcher
b) Multiple scanner probes
c) Luck
d) A lot more in the way of trained skills and practice than the tutorial lets on, but anyway.

Scans turn up cosmic anomalies, little NPC pirate/drone hangouts which are easy to find, and cosmic signatures. Cosmic signatures are what you’re usually looking for – you, and the umpteen thousand other people trying to find the good ones first.

(Above: Cosmic signature heaven. Let’s all hear it for little backwater solar systems twenty-five jumps from anywhere interesting!)

There are various types of cosmic signature, indistinguishable from each other until you start scanning them down individually, and the gods of EVE have seen it fit to arrange things such that you’ll always get seven of the kind you’re not looking for and none of the kind you are. In decreasing order of undesirability (from my perspective; I’m sure someone out there loves ladar sites):

Wormholes. Wormholes are shiny hypnotic death. Not exclusively, because you can make a lot of money in there if you know what you’re doing and you have a lot of friends and there’s nobody else already in there waiting for you and you take the right equipment in and you manage to get it out without incident and you know how to watch the directional scanner like your life depends on it and you really, really know how things work in there, but, yeah, enough.

Ladar sites. Gas clouds to harvest! If you have a gas cloud harvester, for which the skillbook alone costs 20-something million isk, which I don’t so moving on.

Combat sites. Like mission sites without the mission. You shoot stuff, stuff shoots you.

Gravimetric sites. Hidden asteroid belts, usually with rarer asteroids than you can usually find in that part of space.

Magnetometric sites. Archaeology and salvage sites. I know several people who’ve found good stuff here – skillbooks, blueprints copies – but all I ever get is cheap salvage, bah.

Radar sites. Oh, sweet wonderful radar sites.

I found my first radar site last week, taking an exploration jaunt down to Kor-Azor, one of the quieter Amarrian suburbs. I had 3 million isk beforehand – and then I had 3 million isk plus this:


The positron cords weren’t hugely valuable, and sold for 999.90 isk each at a station on my way home. The Sacred Manifestos, on the other hand, went for 4 million each at Jita, wretched hive of scammers and villainy and the galaxy’s main trade hub. Oh happy day.

The next radar site, found the day after, made me 500,000 with a couple of datacores. The one after that, 2 million. And the one I found a few hours later, scanning a really busy system on an off-chance, was… occupied by rats that nearly shot my flimsy little scanning frigate down in a big ball of flame.

Hmm. Never mind. Retreat to Hek, the trade hub one system over, where I’d left one of my Rifters. Fit the codebreaker hacking module needed for radar sites to the Rifter, check guns and ammo, warp into radar site, and… again, nearly get shot down in a big ball of flame.


Warp out, dock, shields regenerate, undock, warp back in, kill one rat, warp out, dock, shields regenerate, undock, warp back in, find a new spawn of rats triggered by the first shooting, realise am now outnumbered 12 to 1, with the info shards that hide the radar site goodies glimmering tantalisingly just out of reach. Dammit.

By this point, three things occur to me:

1) It is going to take me forever to do this in a Rifter.
2) And this is a really busy system; someone else is bound to find this site before long.
3) And if the easy radar sites are worth up to 8 million, and this is a hard radar site, this is probably worth… an amount I would quite like to get for myself.

I hit the directional scanner. It shows at least one other scanning ship in the system. ARGH.

My Rupture, the cruiser which could easy wipe out the rats at the radar site, was back at home 12 jumps away. I set destination and set off like my engines were on fire (easy to impersonate, since they actually had been after my first warp-in to the site). Hit jump gate – jump – warp to next one – jump – warp to next… and next… and next, yelling ‘FASTER DAMMIT’ the entire way. Get back to Aldrat, dock, unfit codebreaker, select the Rupture, shriek in frustration at Scotty the docking manager saying I have 24 seconds before I can change ships, bite fingernails, 23… 22… 21…, eventually switch to Rupture, fit codebreaker, set destination for solar system with radar site, set off. In a ship which is oh so very much not built for speed. By this point, I was picturing riches beyond imagination at that radar site – my radar site – currently being gobbled up by someone who’d had a better ship closer to hand, and getting frustrated enough to gnaw off my own hand with every jumpgate as my Rupture slowly, slooooooowly aligned to the next.

Warp back into radar site. Empty except for me and the rats, o happy day. Shoot all the rats (why not, eh?), hack open the info shards, retrieve loot, ask in corp chat for a price check in other regions, and shriek in glee at the screen.

One trip to Jita and 31 million isk later, I could afford a brand new ship:


And the rats at the next radar site had better watch the hell out.


Sisters of EVE

Every few weeks, CrazyKinux runs the EVE Blog Banter – a collection of EVE bloggers giving their thoughts on a particular topic. The last one was about why so few women are playing EVE, and wow I wish I’d seen it earlier, because oh do I have thoughts on this.

To start off with: I am female. I’ve only been playing EVE for a couple of months now, but I love it to itty bitty pieces and wish to God I’d discovered it years ago. I do think more women should be playing, because the game is fantastic and many women who’d love it are missing out, but I don’t think CCP should change anything about the game mechanics themselves just to attract more women, because a) they’re not the problem and b) oh sweet Lord could that go horribly, horribly wrong.

So what is the problem? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I do have some pretty firm ideas on what it’s not as well as a few thoughts on what it might be.

It’s not because women don’t like spaceships. The SF community in particular has a huge, long-lasting and extremely frustrating blind spot about the fact that lots of women do like spaceships. Honestly. Really. We do. And we get a little tired when the conversation about it goes like this:

“Girls don’t like sci-fi, because space and guns and aliens are more masculine things.”
“No, lots of girls like sci-fi. I like sci-fi. I know huge numbers of women who like sci-fi.”
“It’s because female brains are more interested in relationships and empathy, whereas male brains are more focused on logic and science.”
“What? Uh, no, and honestly, there are huge numbers of female sci-fi fans. Seriously.”
“You see, men and women are just different, and sci-fi does not need to be feminised. Women don’t like it because it’s just not appealing to the way women think.”
“We’re over here! Hellloooooooooo! Here! Next to the tattered poster of the Millennium Falcon we’ve loved since we were fifteen!”
“It’s just more of a guy thing.”

And so on, and so on.

It’s also not because you can’t customise your EVE character enough, or paint your spaceship your own way. A lot of people are thinking that Incarna, the game extension that will allow pilots to walk around in stations as a human avatar rather than a ship, will bring in more women because women want to get to know their characters more. Incarna probably will open the game up to potential players who like a more Second Life-ish angle, but the idea of women being put off by the lack of a female character is… mistaken, I feel.

To illustrate. Here is the avatar of Calluna Ji, my main character:


Nice hair, right? I think she looks a bit like Natalie Portman myself, but maybe that’s just me.

And here is the avatar of Fungus XVII, half-troll priest, my avatar in the last game I played like crazy:


That game was Angband, a roguelike played with an ASCII tileset. Your character is always an @ symbol; other items, landscape features and monsters in the games are numbers, letters and punctuation marks too. (Fun fact: if you play Angband too long, like for an extended seven-hour session, the association between the glyph and the monster/item/whatever gets sort of burned into your head for a while, to the point where you take a break to check your email, and your friend Daniel has signed his off with, for some reason, a light-green ‘D’, and your immediate mental reaction is ‘ARGH A DRACOLICH HIT THE DECK!’, but, um, maybe that’s just me too.)

I do think the idea of being able to customise the look of your ship is a really good one that could add something to gameplay – people would probably be even less keen on losing a ship, insured or not, that was more Their Ship than just Interchangeable Bestower #24,731. But that isn’t about making things prettier so girls will play. Would any of us be playing Minmatar, if that logic worked? I mean, putting a Hello Kitty decal on a Rupture is not going to make it look like a cuddly toy.

It’s not because the game is tough/complex/full of spreadsheets and sociopaths (I’m looking at you, Jita 4-4). Women are fine with all of those things, in RL as well as in games about internet spaceships, and it’s a little patronising to suggest that we can’t cope with and thrive on any of them. Also, while EVE is indeed tough and mean, the idea that it’s somehow blisteringly hard compared to other games because you can actually die is somewhat exaggerated. If you die, you wake up in a clone vat. You may have to buy some new implants. If you forgot to update your clone, you might be set back in skill points, which would indeed sting like a bitter, bitter stingy thing. But, you wake up in a clone vat. Roguelikes, like Angband mentioned above, have permadeath – if you die, you’re dead. You have zero skill points, because you are dead. You have lost all your stuff, because you are dead, and you have not insured it, because even if there was a game mechanic for that, there would be nobody to collect the insurance, because you are dead. You can start again with a new character, if you want, and you can even name that character the same as your last one, if that makes you feel better about it, but the character you just lost, the one you might have been playing for weeks, the one that just found a Ring of Speed +11? That character is gone. Now that is tough.

So, what is it? How come the game is (by some estimates) 95% male, if there’s nothing in there that’s putting women off?

I think, honestly, part of the reason is that ratio itself. Once something is largely male or female, it becomes A Guy Thing or A Girl Thing, and that becomes self-perpetuating. Lots of women probably aren’t interested in trying something that’s filed under ‘man stuff’, because of a huge long history of socially-enforced gender stereotypes on the one hand, and a pick-your-battles attitude on the other – if all you know about EVE is that it’s a spaceship MMO with a mostly-male playerbase, you might well be forgiven for rolling your eyes in anticipation of all the inevitable “wow a GIRL hey a/s/l??????? lol” stuff and not bothering to find out any more.

I might have liked Evony, for example. But I’ll never know, because any game that gets advertised like this is suddenly about 500% less appealing.

What could CCP do about that? My suggestion would be to advertise the game with a view to promoting what makes it different. I saw several print and video adverts for EVE without ever realising it was more than just an FPS in space. Admittedly, Jita 0.01 ISK price wars are less easy to make an appealing trailer out of than cap ships warfare (I don’t think this one counts, either; for all non-players know the market stuff at the beginning is just worldbuilding filler), but hey, take a shot anyway. The game is great as it is, but there’s no point changing game mechanics to appeal to potential players who don’t even know what the existing game mechanics are. Reach out, not by gimmicky Stuff Girls Will Like additions, but by making sure that the girls who would like the game know that the game is there.

And also, honestly? There are probably more women playing than you think.

There was a “hur hur girlz suck they keep wanting to make us watch Sex and the City instead of playing internet spaceships” conversation in my corp’s channel recently. I mentioned that some girls actually like EVE, and several people told me that, haha, no they don’t. I said that there were probably women in this channel right now, even possibly – shock! – in this conversation, and was helpfully corrected (“no really, Calluna, EVE is like 98.99% male”) before everyone got on to talking about how periods are icky. Yes, they were actually discussing that. Really. Really.

At that point, I could have done two things. One was to jump right in, point out that I actually was a girl in real life, and spend a good chunk of my evening arguing. Another was to kick back with a glass of wine, turn up the Ramones, warp to an asteroid belt in the empty lowsec system I’d just found and start blowing up rats.

It was not a tough choice.


Passive-aggressive warfare

So right now, I am waiting in a station. I am waiting in a station in a rookie ship, the one the insurance company gives you when people blow up yours. Like, oh say, the pirates who just destroyed my frigate at a gatecamp. And who are now waiting for me outside the station. Because they did not get my pod.

It works like this: if your ship gets blown up, either by NPCs or by other players, you end up in a pod. If your pod gets blown up, you wake up back at your home station in a clone vat. This is annoying, because a) you have lost your ship and everything else it was fitted with or carrying; b) you have lost your expensive neural implants, which allow you to train skills faster, and which, unlike your ship, can’t be insured; and c) well, they shot you. I mean. Ouch, right?

In high-security space, anyone who shoots you gets almost-but-not-quite-instantly destroyed by CONCORD, the interstellar police force. In low-security space, anyone who shoots you next to a station or a stargate gets targeted by the sentry guns, which, if you’re in a tough enough ship, is really more of a slap on the wrist. (In null-security space, nobody cares who shoots who and you must go cry to an asteroid alone.)

Stargates are the most common places for gangs of pirates to lurk around waiting for unwary travellers, because immediately after coming through a stargate, you’re vulnerable. You have 30 seconds of being cloaked, which means they can see you’re in the system but not where you are or what you’re flying; after that, or as soon as you move or somebody or something gets close to you, the cloak is lifted. You can warp away, but to warp you need to align to the thing you’re warping to, and that takes more time than you usually have. You can jump back through the gate you came through, but you’re out of jump range and need to fly towards it, which also takes time in which you’re being shot at, and usually you’re being shot at a lot because they want your ship to go boom before you can get away.

Being in a small, fast ship means you have a much better chance of getting through a gatecamp intact. That’s how I got away from these people the first time – and then five minutes later, when two of them followed me. I suppose this must have been sort of annoying for them, because when we ended up running into each other half an hour later in a different system (the gods of EVE were against me tonight), they destroyed my ship in about 0.2 seconds.

But they did not get my pod. And pirates quite like to get your pod.

The pirates and me, we’re the only people in this system. They know I’m here, and that I’m flying something they could kill with a flyswatter; I know they’re here, and that they would very much like to destroy my pod and finish the job. But so long as I’m in the station, nobody can shoot anybody.

Mostly, the pirates have stayed in this system. One of them keeps dropping into the station, then out again. A little while ago, they all left and the system was empty except for me and another pilot, not in their corp and seemingly totally unconnected to them… which would have been totally convincing, if said pilot had not been flying with them back at the first gatecamp. I stayed in the station. Sure enough, the pirates all came back a few minutes later. But that was twenty minutes ago; since then, most of them have now drifted away, except for the two who destroyed my ship. Those two, they’re still waiting.

Honestly, I was tempted to log off and go to bed as soon as my pod rocketed to safety; it’s late, and I have some valuable cargo at another station that I need to move to a trade hub, and that’s better done at a time of day when the local systems are a little less pirate-infested. But, now that it’s become so very obvious that these two think we’re playing a waiting game, I just can’t quite bring myself to do it.

That isn’t to say that I intend to leave the station tonight, of course. I have absolutely no intention of leaving the station tonight. I’m still going to log off with my ship docked here… in a little while. Once I’ve brushed my teeth and unpacked the dishwasher and read a couple of chapters of my book.

The pirates are still waiting, you see. And it would be cruel to kill their hope now


Is nothing sacred?

Last mission I ran for the Sisters of Eve: delivering 20 exotic dancers to an SoE station in time for somebody’s wedding.

‘Humanitarian organisation’, I am so sure.


A new EVE Online player comes to term with spreadsheets, spaceships and the steepest learning curve in MMO history. (SPACESHIPS, you guys!)


On Twitter

  • Okay, we still have a wormhole. Phew. 4 years ago
  • I don’t even know if we still have a wormhole. Do we still have a wormhole? 4 years ago
  • Been playing Skill Training Online for the past few months. Pregnant, sick, too sick even to watch station spinning, bah. 4 years ago
  • Away on a work trip for the next ten days. Passport, check… boarding pass, check… Torpedos V in skill queue, check… 4 years ago
  • That guy in the pod set me as contact with terrible standing as I warped off with his stuff, too. It’s ok, guy! It went to a good home! 4 years ago