Thinking With Wormholes
A year ago Apocrypha brought us wormhole space, 2,500 brand new unexplored systems accessible only from Known-space (or K-space, the already existing part of EVE) via those pesky roaming portals that always seem to collapse when it's most inconvenient. Also known as W-space or Unknown Space, these new systems contained the raw materials we needed to build a new class of ship and the potential to make money in the process. Naturally, the more enterprising and adventurous members of my corporation (including myself) banded together with the following plan:
Step 1) Go to wormhole space. Step 2) ??? Step 3) Profit!
While we knew the general process to building the new Strategic Cruisers, we really had no idea what we were walking into for the long term. So we did what all mad geniuses do best: We winged it. After spending the past year or so working specifically with W-space and its surprises, I'd like to share some of our experiences and reflections on what we learned throughout the process.
Control Tower, Ships, and Kitchen Sink
Our first order of business was to go shopping. So we merrily moved our freighter to the closest trade hub and started fishing in our pockets for loose change. If you tend to lose ships like I do, that's something in astonishingly short supply so there were some arguments over whether or not we were going to buy expensive toys. We eventually settled on a control tower with all of the paraphernalia we thought we'd need to build "things" plus enough weapons to make someone think twice about poking it with a stick. Knowing from our experimentation on the test server we would need to be reacting things we mined, we decided to pick up an Amarr tower for the extra storage space. As an added bonus, Amarr towers use lasers which don't run out of ammo, meaning one less thing to worry about restocking in the long term.
Having a home assembled is useless though without ships to make things explode. We set down some basic, general ground rules for our team members to keep in mind as they bought ships which consisted of, "Don't buy anything that would make us even more of a target." In hindsight, this was probably the best thing we ever did since we used insurable battleships for the hardest jobs, and cheaper cruisers to mine gas with. Our theory was that not attracting attention was the best way to avoid being jumped and it worked out pretty well, though I suspect it had to do more with how remote our system was rather than the fact we didn't fly expensive ships.
Since we didn't know how often we would be able to resupply consumable items like ammunition and drones it was decided we would invest in a set of blueprints that would allow us to build our own in a pinch. But more on that later.
Finding a Home
Unknown Space systems are classified on a scale from 1-6 based on the difficulty of the sites that spawn in them. We decided relatively early on that we wanted to set up in a class four or five system to get a feel for how challenging the mid-range sites were. As luck would have it, we were able to stumble across a wormhole from our Alliance's home space into a class 5. Inside the W-space system (dubbed J22 by us) we found another wormhole leading to high security space near where we had stockpiled our assets. Hailing this as a sign from EVE that this was our new home, we promptly shuffled as much as we could through the wormhole and set up shop. Once our useful entrances had collapsed, finding new ones to bring in gear was simply a matter of following a chain of wormholes until we found another useful path. Once everything was in and set up, it was time to figure out how to get rich.
Dealing With Sleepers
Part of what interested me about W-space was the new type of NPC that would inhabit Unknown Space. Sleepers were designed by CCP to require players to utilize a variety of tactics to defeat them and provide an extra challenge for players who wanted one. Unlike standard NPCs already in game (dubbed "rats" by players), Sleepers have the ability to switch targets rather than continue attacking the same player until it or the player is destroyed. Additionally, they sport increased damage, abilities to keep players from warping off, and some will even repair the damage of other Sleepers. This combination of tactics led to a couple of rough patches before our team really settled down into a tactic we liked.
Our solution to the problem was to find a ship or combination of ships that could survive the initial high damage of the Sleepers while being able to repair other ships taking damage in the group for a sustained period of time. This led us to the Dominix which is probably one of my favorite multi-use ships in EVE. When setup properly, it can act as an excellent logistics ship to repair other ships in the group, or if not needed, it can bring a modest amount of damage to the fight as well. Three of these formed the core of our fleet for when we would go hunting for materials to build more Strategic Cruisers. With a team of five players, this let us bring along two extra ships of choice to fulfill whatever role we needed, usually one command ship to give group bonuses and one extra damage dealer. We were able to run the majority of Sleeper complexes in our system with little to no trouble, though a few times made us sweat heavily due to our own inattention.