Sunday, April 24, 2011

Intelligence Gathering 101: Effective Scouting

The most important aspect of wormhole life is intelligence. New awesome ships are cool and all, running ops and making isk is sweet... but all of it flares up into a momentary lapse of death and nothingness without good, proper intelligence.

Intelligence is not just the backbone of a well run op. It is everything in wormhole space where the lack of local means extra steps must be taken to insure the safety of the fleet. There are some corporations who do just enough, and then there is the truly successful ones that excel at it.

Like money, you have to have it to make it. And there are effective ways to scout and plan while being the eyes and ears of your corporation in a local-less place.

It all starts with scouting and effective information gathering techniques. This will be a two part series. In this first part I will talk about gathering information as a scout. In the second, I will go into scouting and running operations.

Tips for effective scanning

The Rule of Paranoia (pay attention, these come up often)

  1. You are never safe.
  2. Assume the minute you leave the safety of your POS you are being watched.
  3. Assume the second you leap through a hole you are being tracked.
  4. In fact, don't ever assume you have the drop on someone until you know for sure the target has no idea you are there.
  5. If you ever think number 4 is true, see rule number 1.

Work as a Team

Anyone can hop into a scanning ship and scan. Corporations who are truly good at it don't normally do it alone. Effective scouting is at least two man job. One person can get critically important data and relay it to the other who can coordinate strikes or just help scan signatures down. Ever get a neighboring hole you are trying to scan for an exit and it has 20 some sigs? That will take a while. Just having a partner cuts your scan time in half making the job easier.

The more the merrier. If you have 3 or 4 people on the scout team or scanning, it makes things faster up to a point. When you have more then 3 people on the team scanning sigs can go really fast, but you have to be careful you don't stretch too far too fast. Otherwise the team ends up stretched across too many systems to be of any help to each other.

Whatever you decide, do not ever lose sight of rule number 2. Having buddies just helps the odds of survival. When getting into a fight, it helps when you bring lots of friends.

Communication is Key

I can't stress the importance of voice comms. If you are serious, you need to be using them. If you are a hack and don't mind losing ships, then don't.

Good communication goes beyond just voice comms. Scanning is incredibly boring, and nothing sucks worse then scanning a sig down to 86% just as your corpmate says he just hit 100%. Congratulations! You have just wasted your time getting a sig down that someone else was working on all along.

Writing things down so others know what is going on is key for an effective team to succeed. There are a couple of good ways to do this. A corporation can simply use a digital web service to keep track of who is scanning what and what is in system. These “online legal pads” allow multiple people to see and edit the document as necessary. Pirate Pad, Typewithme, and even Google Docs are good choices here.

Don't get complacent with these type of services, however. Constantly recycle your “pad”. You don't want to have just one constant link. Just one link in the hands of a spy can do scary amounts of damage to your corporation. If you don't understand why, see number one under rule of paranoia.

If you are worried about those services getting breached, you can always do the pad “the old fashioned way” by using real paper and some sort of pen or pencil.

By using one of these methods, a scout can list all the signatures in the system and each person scanning can somehow mark the signature he is scanning. This division of labor helps inform the other members of the team to pick a different target to scan. Depending on how your corporation does buisness, the scan team can narrow it down to a warpable point or just list the type of signature.

Information Gathering

So your scan team has just found a wormhole in a system you have just finished scanning down.

When you find a new hole, don't be so hasty to jump in. Get your partner(s) the location, and have him watch the hole cloaked. Only one person should go in at a time. The reason for this is the unknown factor. Until you actually see what is on the other side, you could be jumping into a camp.

Like gate camps in known space, wormhole camps are dangerous places. A well run camp is usually 100% effective, as long as the corporation isn't completely stupid. In fact, it is easier to effectively camp a wormhole then a gate due to the jump mechanics.

In addition to the threat of certain death, the threat of being trapped should also be a concern. Your team could jump in and be scanning away when the natives warp a capital to the hole and close it in two swipes. Not that the team would be trapped for long, but if several corpmates are cut off from the rest of the corporation/home system, it will take time to rescan an exit and get the lost members back.

The one person jumping in needs to get several bits of information before the rest of the team jumps in to help. I will list them here in the order I generally go about obtaining them.

  1. Scan your overview immediately upon loading grid. Is there ships there? How many? What kinds? If there are ships at the hole, you should immediately make some decisions about the next action with your team. It is imperative you have voice comms. DON'T PANIC. I cannot stress this one enough. Don't just automatically start spamming jump to jump back. First of all, there is a 30 second session change that won't allow you to jump back. Second, you won't be able to jump when cloaked. Try to relay as much information as you can. If you are still alive after relaying information, start figuring out your escape strategy, whether that is jumping back or warping off.
  2. No ships on grid? Great. Do a 360 degree D-Scan first for ships (use overview settings). If there are ships, try to determine where they are with d-scan. If no ships, then do a general D-Scan (one that doesn't have the overview settings checked). With this scan you are looking for POS's. Your next step is to try and narrow down where the POS is.
  3. Before you warp off to find the POS, check the system number in Static Mapper. It will tell you how active the system has been, how many jumps and what its probable static exit would be. The person in the system doesn't have to do this, just simply relaying the number to your partner(s) will do. They can look it up for you.
  4. The next few minutes will be spent trying to locate the POS(s). Basically at this point you are looking for activity. You may want to try to set up a gank or some PVP. Or just be assured the system is empty before you start scanning. If you find someone, you want to keep eyes on the target at all times. This is critical information to relay to your team and corporation.
  5. Once you are satisfied with what you have found, or need help, let your team know so they can jump in. Ideally, you want to locate this information before you even launch a single probe. Again, see rule number 3. If the system is empty or no one from that corp appears to be online, then simply launch probes and get to work. Do not forget rule number 1.

D-Scan: The Only Lifeline

D-Scan. Learn it, live it, love it, tell it to a friend. You should never be taking your eyes off D-Scan for very long. Spam it like a hyper-active kid who drank a gallon of Mt. Dew and just shot sugar up his veins. You need to be watching D-Scan EVEN WHEN YOU ARE CLOAKED.

The point is not to look for people coming to gank you. After all, if the cloak is doing its job that shouldn't be a concern. No, the point is to watch your enemies movements. How do you know when more of their corp comes online? If they are intelligent, they did not log off in their POS. There could be people popping online in safe spots, and without D-Scan you would never know they were there.

If you don't know how to use the D-Scan, learn. Practice. Practice more. Seriously, people who don't know how to effectively D-Scan are liabilities the respective corporations that hire them. Don't be that guy.

Warpable Points: Speeding up Scanning

Scanning takes a while. Even for vets with good skills it can take a bit. Jumping into an empty system with over 20 or more sigs is a lesson in patience and hard work.

Follow your corporation's procedure when it comes to the scanning of sigs.

I generally cheat in order to speed up scanning.

When scanning, I don't scan each signature to 100% which allows me to warp to the point. I just scan it enough to know what kind of site it is and make a note next to the sig. The only sigs I ever scan to full is any unknown (wormhole) sig, and any sig I'm interested in (for example, radar and mag sites I want to run). If you are a miner you might want the grav or ladar sites. For the most part I found I don't need all those bookmarks, as they just clutter up the places section. So by only scanning them half to a quarter I can see what kind of signature it is. Unknown means I keep scanning. Anything else I jot down and move to the next. This speeds up scanning considerably.

If you do it this way, be sure to ignore any sig you have already found or any sig your teammates are scanning.  This de-clutters the scan results allowing you to focus on the sigs that need scanning next.

A quick point about warp to zero again. If you warp to a wormhole at some arbitrary distance but are not at 0, simply select the wormhole, right click and select bookmark. A perfect warp to 0 bookmark will appear in your places tab. Some guys warp, then “approach” until they are at 0 then bookmark. By doing this it will put the ship within 2000 km which will uncloak the ship. See rule number 1, 2, and 3.

Know Where it Leads for How Long

Any wormhole has an exit (the k162 side) and an entrance (the side that is not lettered k162). Warping to an entrance hole that has not been warped to yet will spawn the k162 side in the destination system. Finding a k162 means someone else has found the entrance and warped to it. It could mean company.

Second, know how to identify the wormhole on sight. I wrote about this in the 10 facts a while back, which is a pretty popular piece. Many people simply don't know they can look at a wormhole and know where it leads just by what it looks like. Recently Tiger Ears wrote a great piece about this very thing, and helpfully provided pictures.

Third, understand the timers. If it is End of Natural Life (EONL), it is probably wise not to jump into it unless you know exactly when it went EONL and how long it has til collapse. Check the 10 facts about wormholes to figure out the timers.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, but you need to update your CSS for your url links to less jarring colours :)