Wormhole life is one of the most obscure aspects of EVE. These players delve deep into the mutable, daily shifting environment far from known-space. This author takes a rare opportunity to interview two of these pioneering players who were among the first to probe the w-space depths. To protect their identities, this author has assigned them the fictional names ‘Zeke’ and ‘Joshua.’
Prey and Predator
Our first wormhole aficionado, Zeke, has an impressive resume that strings back to Narwhals and Evoke, among other wormhole groups. A self-admitted wormhole fanatic with five EVE accounts, Zeke once spent six hours every day for an entire month scanning wormholes out of his C6 with C5 static. "You start to realize wormholes aren't as random as they should be," he explained. "You just keep rolling and you eventually run into the same wh you saw an hour ago, eight hours ago, and two days ago, even though there are something like 600 C5's."
Zeke's favorite PVP activity is to get into an interdictor and "successfully creep up on people before they hit dscan and bubble them." Then the gang comes in to 'save' him. His favorite interdictor is the Heretic. Why the Heretic? "I like the Heretic because it’s thought to be a joke, but it's got great armor and shield HP so I can take a normalized fit and take it to armor and shield fleets," Zeke said.
Our second w-space player, Joshua, is a PVE wormhole corp member with three EVE accounts who makes more than a hundred million isk per hour. Losing a faction fit T3 cruiser is a barely shrug-worthy for Joshua, who "tries to keep [his] home wormhole secure to limit PVP until we want PVP."
His favorite PVP actions are "finding a nullsec wormhole link to the back end of some carebear's space. We would go in with Hurricanes and try to find some ratter to beat down. Once we caught a Nightmare, he called for all his friends nearby. By the end of the fight we had killed the Nightmare, two Nighthawks and three Abbadons."
This author was quite intrigued by the chain of events that led Zeke and Joshua from a starter system to this level of experience.
Climbing to the Top Tier
Zeke tried EVE after getting tired of Star Wars Galaxies. He was originally very turned off by the inability to get out of the spaceship, but once he got used to that he quickly joined EVE University. He soon switched to EVE Uni's 'WH Club' and fell for the wormhole allure. "It was everything nullsec and lowsec were not. I loved it. I could make all the PVP and PVE come to me instead of the other way around."
He ended up leaving the WH club and joined a PVE wormhole corp. This PVE corp lived in a class five (C5) wormhole system or 'locus', with a static that linked to a C5, also known as a 'C5 C5'. The corp ran sites using Tengus. Zeke enjoyed PVE in a wormhole and made between a billion and a billion and a half ISK, but his corp was constantly stalked by PVP players. "I got killed by someone in Narwhals," Zeke mentioned, "and it made me think 'Hey, I wanna shit on someone’s parade someday too. I'm tired of being on the shit end.'" Since one of his RL friends was connected to a large wormhole PVP corp, he got in via referral.
Joining a w-space PVP corp was an eye-opener for Zeke. "I got bored solo PVE'ing. I got 3 alt accounts and would quad box PVE in a wormhole. It was very draining and risky, but also fun and profitable because you didn't have to split the isk 5 ways. I started netting fourteen or fifteen billion isk in a week, then I'd get to the narwhal C6 and PVP for the rest of the month."
Joshua started MMOs playing Ragnarok online. "I have spent significant time playing WoW, EVE, Guild wars, Rift." He was one of those players who quickly figured out EVE and tried desperately to get his corp into nullsec. His corp got booted out of nullsec three separate times, causing huge isk loss, low morale and frustration. "We were bored of hisec, sick of getting thrown out of nullsec, and wanted to try something else. The wormhole expansion came out and we decided to give it a shot." Jumping into wormholes saved Joshua's corp from collapsing.
A Day in the Life: PVP
Zeke and Joshua's daily EVE life are remarkably similar, starting out with the main staple of WH life: scanning. Both players start their day scanning: "After every downtime we will scan for new sigs and update the identifiers of the old ones." Scanning is a critical aspect of wormhole life and both these players have spent at least a full month training astrometrics five and scan support skills to four on all the alt accounts they own.
The difference comes with what they do with the signatures once they get them scanned down. Once Zeke's home system is identified, the 'PVP rolling' begins. "The rolling crew goes back and forth through holes nonstop." They would pass the weight limit on the old static, forcing a new hole to open. Cloaky scouts went in and scanned for enemies; if none were found they'd return home and close the hole again. "If we found someone, we'd give ourselves an hour to stalk them, and if it took longer than that we'd just move on to the next. The whole time we're hunting, lots of the PVP guys would be on their alts running sites and making ISK."
This prevalence of alts is repeatedly mentioned by both Zeke and Joshua. "You have to have alts in a wormhole, you just can't function without them," Zeke mentioned. "Wormhole PVP is so exciting, but for every character out there wrecking people, you have to have another watching your back. That's part of the reason there's so much less "shit-talking" in a wormhole, according to Zeke. Naturally, you wouldn't want to give yourself away during the intricate stalking process.
Stalking in a wormhole is a complex, deadly dance. "When we find an inhabited hole, first the scouts and hics go in. Scouts DO NOT drop probes: we d-scan the system looking for any detail, wrecks, cans, kills... any pattern in their sleeper kill activity. The only warning we give is the initial spawning of the K162." After several minutes of watching the enemy players a decision is made between baiting the enemy with a two or three man team and dropping in Heavy Interdictors, followed up quickly with the entire gang pouring through the K162 onto the enemy corp. "Sometimes, we bring a dread through and warp it at range to escalate their site when they don't want it. It's so fun, dread warping in at range spawning 13 more bs and then jumping right into the mess. It doesn't matter, we will eat it all."
If two corps fight each other and it's really close, instead of "kicking the other guy out, they might blue up and defend each other." AHARM is one of the most well-known wormhole corps, living primarily in a C6 with C6 static. They have been known to go into inhabited C6's, but not to kick the enemy corp out or blow them up. Instead they pop the other corp's player-owned customs offices and install their own at a higher tax rate. Then they tell the other corp that they have to run PI on them or else AHARM will bring in dreads and take their POSes out.
These are great examples of the day-to-day wormhole life intricacies that lie just under the surface of known-space.
A day in the life: PVE
Once Joshua's corp has their snug hole locked down and secure with any K162's jumped through until they are brought to the threshold of collapse ("massed"), they would "abuse carriers as logistical ships with a 5-10 man subcapital fleet to grind a site down. We generally escalate with more capitals once we have the site stable and at an appropriate wave for maximum ISK." Once the home sites are harvested, the static is opened and the entire wormhole chain scouted to assess danger. If enemies or very active holes are found, the static is rolled until a safe enough chain to run PVE in is found.
How much isk do these activities generally provide? "With capital escalations, we turn a 1 billion ISK anomaly into a 4 billion ISK anomaly. We'll bring in a carrier first to rep the subcaps, and follow up quickly with a blapping dread, maybe two. Once those are mostly cleared, often we'll bring a second carrier in." That is at least eight billion in hardware for those keeping track.
Typical 'outside home' PVE fleets for Joshua include cloaky scouts, T3 cruisers, battleships, and a single carrier for logistics and drone DPS. "We bring enough mass that we can go through the hole once, and when we come back it collapses," he said. Keeping very close track of mass on both wormhole entrances and your fleet is a crucial part of the "brilliant mass and m3 game that CCP has designed" that Zeke lauded during our interview.
This incredible pursuit, math, and evasion game plays out nearly invisibly, far from the visible nullsec war politics. With lowsec becoming ever more sparsely populated, more people are turning to wormholes as the refuge of the "small gang." But small gang isn't the only action you'll find in w-space. The "WHKills.info" site shows that in the month of September alone, two trillion isk worth of ships, items, and POS equipment were lost. That's the equivalent of 25 titans going down in a single month.
Future Wormhole Changes
On the subject of the new POS system CCP is developing, our PVP interviewee loathes the idea. He wishes that CCP would just make small improvements on what we've already got, rather than vast sweeping POS changes. By contrast Joshua shows a cautious optimism when discussing the new POS changes, showing confidence in our Icelandic Overlords. "I really like wormholes the way they are right now," Joshua said. "It would be very difficult for me to think of something to change, except that closing [wormhole links] is so risky. It would be nice if there was another way besides jumping in and out."
The big issue concerning Zeke is the fact that "C5 PVP is dying off. Everyone's moving to C4's or especially C2's where there are no industry penalties. They can build a carrier inside the hole and be very difficult to remove." C5's are "just too easy to invade," and wormhole corps are becoming more and "more defensive," Zeke belives. PVP players have to bring more and more players in in order to win. This has the effect of increasing the number of splits and reducing PVP profit. "C5's with a C5 static are the new 'black hole system,' no one worth killing wants to live there anymore."
A deadly dance
This author asked Zeke what he would say to all the mostly PVE players like Joshua. "Don't back down from fights. Blueballing pvp gangs repeatedly will get a name for yourself and eventually we will want to burn you out for whoring up wh space and not fighting. POSing up is laaaaame."
Joshua only had two words for wormhole PVPers: "Good luck."