Monday, September 10, 2012

Life in Wormhole Space

Following is an article that I wrote for EON some time back. 

Wormhole space is dangerous and unforgiving of mistakes; wormhole systems are filled with deadly sleepers and deadlier capsuleers looking for a kill. However, unparalleled riches await those dedicated enough to make their home in w-space.

Since the beginning of my career in New Eden, I’ve known I wanted to live in wormhole space. Frontier life excited me, and I looked forward to the day when I could live in the wilds of w-space, far from the space stations and stargates of Empire. I’d heard stories of the vast amount of riches that could be made in wormholes.  In the months I’ve spent in wormhole space since, I’ve never regretted my decision. But what is living in wormhole space like?

In some ways life as a wormholer isn’t a whole lot different from life in Empire space. We mine ore, harvest gas, and do planetary interaction. Sometimes we have to jump into our combat fitted ships and protect what’s ours. It is true there’s a lot of ISK to be made in w-space, but it’s not easy. Operating successfully in a wormhole requires a great deal of teamwork and logistics. The most important thing for any wormholer wanna-be to remember is to be prepared. For the initiate, this means knowing what you’re getting into and what you’ll need to succeed.


If you’ve spent your career in high sec, then there are some differences to living in wormhole space that you should be aware of. The first is that the space stations you’ll find in wormhole systems aren’t run by empires; they’re run by individual corporations. You’ll find no repair facilities there. It’s always a good idea to bring the modules you’ll need to repair the shields, armor and hull of your ships.

There are no markets in wormhole space, so you have to rely on your own resources and the resources of your corporation. This requires a great deal of planning when you first move into a wormhole. Not only will you need to bring all the ships you’ll want to have—scanning ship, hauling ship, combat ship, gas harvesting ship, salvaging ship, mining ship, etc.—but you’ll also want to bring everything else you’ll need in the weeks to come—modules, ammunition, skillbooks, exotic dancers…. You will be able to find routes to high sec, but depending how deep you are in w-space, these might be few and far between. Always plan ahead.

Another big difference in wormholes is the complete lack of Local communications networks. There are no such networks in unexplored space. This means you can’t rely on your Local channel to alert you to possible threats. The only warning you’ll ever have of impending doom is probes or ships on your directional scanner. Using the directional scanner is an active process, which means it only works if you use it on a regular basis. Many capsuleers have gotten free rides to high sec due to lack of diligence with their directional scanner. Even when you’re in a fleet, it’s unwise to rely on a designated scanner. You should always be scanning yourself. Because of the lack of a Local channel, you can never be 100% sure your corporation is alone in a system. Even with diligent scanning, someone could sneak in. This is just another part of the mystery, danger and allure of wormhole space.


Ask any wormhole corporation out there what they want in a new recruit, and I bet they all have one requirement in common—you’ve got to be able and willing to scan. If you want to live in wormhole space, you’d better love scanning because you’ll be doing a lot of it. If you don’t like scanning, you should find another line of work, because w-space won’t be for you.

In wormhole space the only things you don’t have to scan down are planets, moons and stars. They are easily warped to, just like in high sec. However, everything else must be scanned down. This includes wormholes, Sleeper sites, gravimetric sites, ladar sites, etc. Some wormhole systems will have dozens of sites and multiple wormholes. Scanning these systems takes a lot of time, even for a skilled and proficient scanner. Scanning is best done in teams. Not only is it much more expedient and efficient, but it’s also a lot more fun. The best ship for this is the covert ops frigate. Most corps will recommend all scanning skills at IV (including covert ops), especially if you’re in a class IV, V, or VI wormhole system.

Not only do you need to scan everything down for each system you visit, but you will need to scan your home system multiple times per day. The signature ID’s change every day, and you never know when a new K162 wormhole will open in your system. Intelligence is key in wormhole space. This is why scanning is the single most important job you can do for your corporation. If you want to get into a wormhole corp, work on your scanning. They’ll love you for it.


Besides the thrills of exploration and adventure, the main reason to make your living in wormhole space is for the ISK. Wormholes are filled with ISK. The question I hear asked most often from those interested in living in wormholes is, “What can I do in wormhole space? How will I make ISK?” You have a lot of options open to you. What you decide to do will ultimately depend upon your skill-set and what you enjoy. Remember that all these pursuits are secondary to scanning. Having twenty ladar sites in your system won’t do you any good if you can’t find them.

The easiest way for younger capsuleers to make isk is through gas cloud harvesting. You only need one skill to harvest gas, which is in stark contrast to the array of skills you’ll need to be an effective ore miner. Also, there are no specialized ships for harvesting gas clouds, so you don’t have to train to fly an exotic ship (again in contrast to ore mining). Most people I know gas harvest in either a cruiser or battlecruiser. I recommend a cruiser because they’re more agile, allowing you to get into warp more quickly if hostile capsuleers show up in-system. Cruisers are also cheaper, which reduces your overhead. Not only is gas harvesting easy to train for, it’s extremely lucrative. You’ll make far more ISK/hour than you ever will mining ore.
Most wormholers also do planetary interaction. Resources on wormhole system planets are extremely abundant compared to what you’ll find in Empire space. It always fun to hear new corp-mates’ exclamations when they realize how much they can make off planetary interaction in w-space. PI is also very important for the corporation as you can produce PoS fuels along with other necessary products. PI is also a great way to pass the time when all the cosmic signature and anomaly sites have been cleared. Planetary interaction is also relatively easy for newer capsuleers to get into.


Another great way to make ISK in the wormholes is mining ore. This isn’t as viable for newer capsuleers, as there are more skills to train for. You’ll also want to train to fly a Hulk, or at the very least a Covetor. The nice thing about ore mining, though, is that there’s a lot more ore in wormholes than there is gas. A small fleet can clear a ladar site in a matter of minutes. Gravimetric sites in wormholes take much longer to clear. You’ll see asteroids the size of small moons, and even a large fleet will take hours, if not days, to harvest all the ore from a gravimetric site. The ore mined is also very useful to the corporation as it can be used to build ships, including capital ships.

There’s also a lot of ISK to be made in the radar and magnetometric sites as well as the various cosmic anomaly combat sites. However these are more challenging, as the Sleepers you’ll face in these sites are formidable. That said, this is where the real ISK is. These sites require organized and effective fleets. Combat skills are key here, as well as skills in archaeology, hacking and salvaging. Even if you’re not skilled enough to fly in the combat fleet, you can make a killing by helping with the salvaging, analyzing and code-breaking.


If you’ve decided you’d like to give wormhole life a try, your first step will be to evaluate your skills and determine a training plan. Make sure you have the skills you’ll need to do what you want to do in the wormhole. Train all those scanning skills and covert ops. The ships used most often in wormholes are frigates, cruisers, and battlecruisers. The ultimate wormhole ship for combat ops is the tech III cruiser, so you might want to consider that in your plans. Logistics ships are also extremely valuable, as the tougher Sleeper sites all require fleets with logistics.

The next step will be finding a corporation. Sure, you can live in w-space solo if you want, though you’ll be limited to the lower class wormholes, but if you do that you’re kind of missing the point, not to mention a lot of the benefits. A good corporation will be the difference between a rewarding or an awful wormhole experience. You want to find a corporation that knows what it’s doing, has experience in w-space, and is well organized. I recommend you find a corp that is dedicated to living in a wormhole. There are a lot of corps who try to have a presence in high sec, null sec, and wormhole space, and in my experience it usually doesn’t end well. I’ve been in more than one corporation that decided to pack in its wormhole operation once the leadership realized corp resources were spread to thin. You don’t want to be in a corp when that happens. The only thing more tedious than moving into a wormhole is moving out. I’m very happy with my corporation, Lone Star Exploration, and they’re a perfect example of how a good outfit will be run. Not only are they well organized, but they have a great deal of resources for capsuleers new to wormhole space. I’m sure there are lots of good wormhole corps out there, though. Shop around until you find the one that’s exactly what you want.

Once you’ve joined a good corporation, they can give you guidance as far as what kind of ships they tend to fly. If you’re an armor tanker, you don’t want to join a corp that primarily shield tanks and vice versa.  

It’s true you can make a ton of ISK in wormhole space, but the best reason to try it for yourself is because it’s so much fun. If you feel like life is getting too easy for you in Empire, or if you want a new challenge to test your skills, then give frontier life in the wormhole systems a shot. You’ll be glad you did. Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll see you out there. Of course, you won’t see me, because I’ll be cloaked.

Fly smart.