Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Hitchhikers Guide to Wormholes: 10 Facts Everyone Must Know

There are some universal truths in wormhole space. You got your scan ship, and you are all set to embark on the adventure of a lifetime into the great unknown.

Hold on there, buckaroo.

There are some very important things you need to know about WH space. Even those of you who have been living in W-space for some time can stand read through this list just in case there is something experience hasn't taught you by now.

1. Security and Paranoia

Biggest takeaway here, is just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean that they aren't after you. Wormhole space is not unlike Null sec with some rather large differences. First, sovereignty means nothing. It does not work, and the one that owns the W-space is the one strong enough to hold it. At any point you can be invaded and podded, your POS destroyed and your hangars looted. The attackers can take over the now empty space or can just move on to plague someone else. W-space is 0.0 for purposes of sec status and Concord. Even if you have a high sec hole in your system that leads to Jita itself, don't expect Concord to fly into your place and save your ass.

It ain't happening.

Its almost Sith-like in its execution. Only the strongest will survive through feats of strength, strong tactics, or shady backroom deals and backstabbing. And no one is coming to save you.

What makes it better (or worse, depending on the situation) is the complete lack of local. What makes Null sec easy in my humble opinion is the fact that local can and does work. Got a 50 man fleet in the other system? Well, there they all are, right in local channel. You can count em. Got a 50 man fleet in a WH? You won't have the slightest clue without d-scan or dropping in unexpectedly on their grid.

The takeaway from all of this? Know how to use your D-scan and use it early and often. And just because your paranoid, if you find yourself doing anything that proverbially leaves your ass hanging out into traffic and you see something not right on D-Scan its time to make like a rabbit. Chances are, you are already too late but fortune does tend to favor the lucky or incredibly stupid.

2. Session Change and Wormholes

If you don't have the session change timer up on the UI, you need to enable it now. Now as in yesterday. In the game hit ESC to bring up the menu. On the General Settings tab there will be a box under General labeled “Show Session-Change Timer”. Make sure you put a check in the box. This turns on the timer. The timer will appear in the top left of your UI now every time you initiate a session change. Examples of session changes include undocking, docking, jumping through a gate, jumping through a wormhole, ejecting from a ship, and boarding a new ship. If you don't know what the session change timer does try docking then immediately try to change ships. You'll get that funny and often amusing message about having to wait cause your halfway on board and you need to wait 20 some seconds til the other half is aboard. That is the session change. This is very important in WH space.

It has to do with WH jump mechanics. Understanding this could save your ship one day. Wormholes act like gates with a couple of very important differences you need to understand. Like gates, “jumping” through them leads you to a gate on the other side in the target system. Similarly, wormholes will spill you into another system at the point where the corresponding wormhole is. However, wormholes can be activated to “jump” through by any ship within 5000 km, which is a greater distance then what is required by gates in known space. Also, wormholes will have a visible “activation” that can be seen on both sides of the hole; both on the side you are jumping from and the destination system. This is expressed in a visible “flash” that can be seen when looking at the wormhole as well as an audible tone.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, if you are alone at a WH and suddenly see the flash and hear the tone, but don't see anything pop up on your overview, you know that someone is jumping into your system. If you see several flashes and tones, its time to get out of there if you are by yourself and uncloaked. Second, remember that it works both ways. When you are jumping into an unknown WH you could be jumping straight into a camp.

Finally, one more very important point of wormhole jump mechanics you must understand is distance and the 4 minute timer. When jumping through a gate your ship will land in the system the gate links to anywhere between 20 to 30 km off the corresponding gate. When jumping though a wormhole, your ship will land in the system within 2.5 to 6 km off the corresponding hole. Just like gates in K-space, your ship will have a cloak that lasts for 1 minute. The difference is with gates in K-space you can jump back and forth as much as you want (as long as you don't have the session timer, of course). The only hindrance is your ship has to travel the gate landing distance back to within 2500 km off the gate. In W-space travel, there are no such problems. When you land in the system, more often then not you are within the 5000 km needed in order to activate the hole.

This is where the 4 minute timer comes into play. Upon jumping through a wormhole you can of course immediately jump back through the same wormhole. This puts you within jumping distance on the side you jumped through initially. However, if you try to jump back through you will find that you have a 4 minute timer that is preventing you from warping back. Repeated jumps back and forth change the timer to 1 minute 45 seconds to 3 minutes back to 1:45. Behold an illustration of a high sec to W-space hole and a ship jumping back and forth:

HS side → W-space (no timer) → HS side (4 min) → W-space (1:45) → HS (3) → W-space (1:45) → and so on

Note that this only counts for jumping through the same hole. For example jumping from W-space to HS then back to the same W-space starts the 4 minute timer. But that timer only counts for that HS hole, if the ship warps to another hole in the same W-space, it can jump through that hole without waiting for the timer to finish.

So why is this important? For normal W-space travel, its not. But these game mechanics will come into play when you find a hole camped, which is something I will talk about in a later blog entry.

3. Spawning of Sites/Holes

Sites when spawned in a wormhole will typically last for a while as long as they are not warped to or completed. Once a site is warped to it will despawn in 3 to 4 days. If it is completed, it despawns immediately. CCP has stated that they did not intend W-space to be a permanent place to live. The respawn rate is slow, so after raiding all the sites in your hole, be prepared to raid the neighbors if you wish to keep doing sites.

Theories abound as to what exactly spawns sites. One is that the sites stay the same in the wormhole and slowly spawn based on the very slow spawn rate. The current favorite is once a site is completed and/or despawns in w-space, that site spawns in similar class wormhole in a different system in w-space. As such, people will warp to sigs in neighboring same class holes to start the timer of despawn even if they aren't going to run them in hopes they will spawn in their hole. This theory of course cannot be proven without confirmation by CCP. Until then, we aren't sure exactly what spawns the sites.

4. Wormhole Effects and You

There are six wormhole effects that can affect your ship and fleet. Experienced WH'ers can tell these effects on sight, as each one has a visual signature in the system along with the star. If you are new to W-space or can't tell them by sight (even I get mixed up sometimes), everyone should have the following bookmarked in their in-game browser:

This site shows what all six look like so you can match it to the visual cue in the system. There are six effects you need to know: Magnetar, Red Giant, Pulsar, Wolf Rayet, Cataclysmic Variable, and Black Hole. This is important for you and the safety of your fleet; for example you don't want to run a shield tank op in a Wolf Rayet. Also note that the WH effects will apply to sleepers, so expect those same sleepers in that Wolf Rayet system to take a bit longer to kill due to the increased resistance.

5. Static Holes

Each system in WH space will have at least one static hole. Some systems will have multiple. A static hole is one that has a letter signature that is NOT k162. A system can have as many k162 openings as necessary. Its entirely possible to find a system with one static hole and five k162 openings. It is also possible on the following day to be in the same system and have one static and no k162s. Go to static mapper or DaOpa's to determine what kind of static hole a system has. I find DaOpa's site particularly helpful as it lists all the possible static signatures along with mass/time and where it leads. If you look up the system in static mapper it will list probable statics as well as activity in the hole. The latter is expressed in the number of jumps through the system, which can give you an idea as to how active the neighbors are.

A system will always have at least ONE static hole. If that static closes for any reason (ie, it was purposely closed or it ran out of time) a new static signature will appear somewhere in the system. This is designed as such to prevent a ship from not having a “way out” of W-space.

6. K162 – Where does it go?

K162's are the back sides of static holes. As stated previously, a system can have any number of k162s. However, unlike static signatures which are so helpful, k162s do not tell you anything about the system on the other side. So the question often becomes, where does this hole lead?

First, start by right clicking on the hole and select “Show Info”. It will tell you where it leads. If the hole goes anywhere in K-space, it will tell you right in the show info box whether it goes to high, low or null sec. However, a k162 that leads to another system in W-space requires a bit more investigation.

First, in the show info box it will say “This hole leads to...” and will end one of three ways: Unknown space, dangerous unknown space, or deadly unknown space.

Unknown space means it leads to a class 1, 2, or 3 wormhole. Dangerous unknown space means it leads to a class 4 or 5. Deadly unknown space leads to a class 6.

Next, look at the wormhole and note the color. If it leads to a class 4 or 5 you can tell which is which by the color. Class 4 is a orange-ish color and class 5 is red. For class 1, 2, and 3 you can do the same. Class 1 is a light blue color, class 2 is a dark blue and class 3 is a white/silvery color. Class 6 is always a deep red color.

The other way to determine where the hole leads is just jump in and look the system up in either static mapper or DaOpa's. However, some times this is not always the ideal solution, and being able to identify the WH on sight is a very useful skill not many possess.

7. Determining Mass/Time of a Wormhole

Each wormhole has a mass and time restriction. The only wormhole with a ship restriction is class 1 wormholes, which only allow battlecruiser and below. Class 2 through 6 have no ship restrictions, just mass limitations. All wormholes will have a time limitation.

How do you determine how much mass or time a wormhole has left? There is no exact answer but there is a way to get a good estimate based information in the show info box.

First, time. Wormholes were designed by CCP to be constantly changing to keep W-space interesting and more fluid. Therefore, most wormholes will only last about a day. The more common wormholes in the lower class holes will last 16 and 24 hours, where as some holes in more deadly w-space can last 36 or even 48 hours. In the show info box will be line that tells you the time status of the WH:

“Life cycle has not yet begun” means you are the first to have just found it and warped to it. Mark the time you found it down, that hole will last the full allotment of hours from the time you landed on grid. After that it gets a bit hazy. “Probably won't last another day” means the wormhole has greater then 25% of total time left. Meaning if its a hole that lasts 16 hours, you have more then 4 hours before it collapses. “Nearing the end of natural life” is a big red stop sign. This means the wormhole has less then 25% and there is no telling how far along it is. It could be two hours, it could be two minutes. If you are concerned about a WH time and set to warp to and check it every hour on the hour, you will know within 1 hour from when it goes end of natural life (EoNL) of its collapse. There will also be a visual cue. When looking at the wormhole, it has a ripple effect or “waves” that emanate from the center of the hole and work outward. As the hole slowly runs out of time, these “waves” go from slow, steady and calm to fast and dynamic. If you see a hole that is EoNL and the waves are going crazy, you best not jump in unless you don't mind being trapped on the other side.

Second is mass. Mass can also be determined by the show info box and is the way that experienced wormholers “close” holes. If the hole “has not had its stability reduced”, then it has greater then 45% of its mass available. “Has had its stability reduced but not to a critical degree” means the hole has less then 45% but more then 10%. If the wormhole is “on the verge of collapse” this means it has less then 10% of the available mass. This will also have a visual cue as the wormhole will physically get “smaller” as it loses mass.

Think of mass as a running total. Every time a ship jumps through, the mass of the ship (including all of its modules, as armor plate adds significant mass) is subtracted from that running total. Closing a WH is usually accomplished by jumping a large battleship through and staying cloaked on the side they don't want to be on. Then the closers will run battleships back and forth through the hole, waiting for the moment til it gets less then 45%. At this point its simple math. Take the holes' total mass and multiply it by .45. This will give you the approximate mass it has left, and subsequently, how much you have to run through the hole to close it. Closers will then (while keeping the BS on the wrong side of the hole cloaked) carefully run ships through it til it hits around 5 to 10% critical. Usually at this point, the cloaked BS then uncloaks and squeezes through the hole, closing it behind him.

This is not without risks, so if you are going to do this, make sure you have the exit bookmarks or a scanner. Or both. Never hurts to be prepared.

So how do you determine the exact total time or mass? First, you need to be on the static side (the non-k162 side). Note the static number and look the hole up in DaOpa's guide or Static Mapper. Notice a pattern here yet? Either one should tell you exactly how much mass and time that particular wormhole has. From those base numbers, you can calculate how much you have left.

8. Know your sites

If you've completed the scan tutorials this is not difficult. Remember Gravimetric are rocks and Ladar is gas and both require the appropriate mining skill after a short initial sleeper clear.  Magnetometric (mag) and Radar are more powerful combat sites then anomalies (or anoms for short) you'll find in the same hole. These require a more dedicated clear and specialty equipment. Remember, Mag sites use analyzers and Radar use hacking. Even experienced guys get them switched up. You don't want to be the guy that shows up to open the cans with the wrong mid slot mod.

9. Know the trigger: All about Sleepers

Sleepers are the pve threat inside of w-space. Sleepers are bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter then any pve enemy you have ever faced inside k-space. Some sleeper ships are equipped with MWD and can close distance quickly. They are all intelligent, with the most advanced AI CCP has ever created that allows them to switch targets at will. Sleepers know who your logistics pilots are and will punish them. Drones are not immune, as sleepers will target and kill them. They hit like trucks, their weapons doing Omni damage so don't go in to fight them with a resist hole. Starting at class 3 there are some sleepers with the ability to scram. By the time you take on class 5 and 6 sleepers every single one can scram and web. Sleepers can be found in all sites in w-space, from anoms to radar to ladar sites.

Still interested in taking them on? Excellent. Sleepers only have two bars, armor and structure. They have no shields, and any WH shield effects will consequently have no effect on them. Sleeper resists are 70/70/70/70. This means there is no one type of ammo better then another, unlike k-space rats. So use whatever ammo does the most damage for the range you wish to engage. ECM does work against sleepers, but don't bother with a multi-spectral jammer. Any racial jammer will work on sleepers, so use whatever one is the strongest.

Bookmark what I call the Sleeper Bible:

In the bible you will find all the sites broken down by class of wormhole. It will also tell you what the trigger is. Be sure to clear the wave without killing the trigger or things will get really bad really fast if you are not prepared for it. Also, know your escalation points. If you think you can just warp your carrier or dread in and take the site down you will be in for a rude surprise. Starting in class 4 sites the sleepers will escalate by warping in 6 sleeper battleships for the first carrier or dread you warp into site. Each carrier or dread you warp in after that spawns an additional 8 sleeper battleships. If you want to use this effect to farm them, note that each type (carrier and dread) can warp in two different ships for a total of 4 additional waves, six, eight, eight, and eight. Bringing a third carrier or dread when you already have two in will not spawn an additional wave.

10. Don't Leave the Grid!!!!

This part is so important I gave it its own number. Sleeper combat sites like anoms despawn as soon as the last sleeper is clear. If your salvaging, make sure you have the bookmarks to all the areas where the wrecks will be, as you won't be able to scan it down again. As soon as everyone leaves the grid, the site vanishes, leaving just the wrecks which can't be scanned down.

The mining sites will stay up for a few days after the sleepers are clear. The sleepers in these sites do not respawn.

Here's the really important part. Mag and Radar sites will despawn as soon as one of the cans are tampered with. The only way to prevent this is by having someone on grid. If you tamper with one of the cans then leave, the entire site will despawn within a minute, which includes the cans. Do not leave the grid when hacking/analyzing the cans. Make sure someone stays on grid until the job is done, otherwise you could lose hundreds of millions of isk.

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