EVE Evolved: Hulk hunting in highsec

EVE Evolved title image
As it's a sandbox game, a big part of what makes EVE Online special is the interesting things players make and do within the game world that developers didn't anticipate. It's ultimately the players who collectively shape the game world, in extreme cases even overturning some of the developed game mechanics. Most players think of high-security space as a safe place to mine and run missions, with CONCORD police keeping a watchful eye on players and destroying any ship that breaks the law. But in EVE you're never truly safe anywhere but inside a station. With the right ship setup, it's possible to kill a target in the few seconds before the police ships arrive to turn you into a smoking wreck.

In 2008, GoonSwarm alliance launched its infamous JihadSwarm campaign aiming to suicide gank every mining barge in high-security space. The imaginary safety bubble that miners had lived in for years burst, and highsec mining temporarily became one of the game's most dangerous professions. When Helicity Boson later kicked off the first Hulkageddon event, pirates competed to see who could destroy the most mining barges, and miners in high-security space were prime targets. Hulkageddon went on to become a regular event, with achievements to be won and billions of ISK in sponsored prizes. Recently, Hulkageddon V took an interesting turn when Goonswarm Federation pledged to keep the event running permanently by paying players 100 million ISK for every 10 tech 2 mining barges they kill.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at Hulkageddon from both sides of the fence, with tips on how to suicide gank mining barges and how to stay safe when mining.

EVE Evolved side imageTools of the trade

The damage required to kill a mining barge isn't very high, as even a tanked Hulk will barely pass 20,000 effective hitpoints and almost nobody in highsec fits a tank. A tech I fitted gank Catalyst is enough to kill any tech 1 barge, and with good skills a gank cruiser like the Thorax can easily take out a Hulk or Mackinaw before the police arrive. You no longer get an insurance payout when the police destroy your ship, so it now actually works out more cost-effective to use tech 2 fitted Catalysts to hit Hulks instead of upgrading to a cruiser or battlecruiser. Every module on the ship has a 50% chance to drop as loot, so have someone standing by to recover anything that survives.

The typical gank Catalyst fitting has eight Light Neutron Blaster Is, each loaded with just five or six rounds of Federation Navy Antimatter S. To maximise the damage output, fit three Magnetic Field Stabilizer Is, one Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I rig and one Small Hybrid Collision Accelerator I rig. Meta level 1 guns and damage mods are often cheaper on the market than basic tech 1 versions, and they have higher stats. If you find an ice mining fleet or a large group of mining barges clustered together, kit out a battleship with a full rack of large smartbombs and warp into the middle of the group to hit them all at once.

EVE Evolved side imageSuicide ganking tactics

If you've been paying attention to the killboards during Hulkageddon, you'll notice that a lot of the attacking players have -10.0 security status. That means they'd be attacked on sight in high-security space and should theoretically never be able to get a ship into an asteroid belt to kill anyone. Since 2008, there's been a workaround you can use to evade the local navy long enough to secure the kill. The local navy won't attack a player's escape capsule, so you can enter the target system in a pod and board a ship there.

The easiest way to do this is to have someone prepare a stack of pre-fit gank ships and put them in the ship hangar of an Orca. The Orca pilot then meets the gank character at a safespot and ejects a ship for him to use. Upon boarding the ship, the gank character has to warp immediately to the target as Navy ships will soon appear and attack. The real challenge of suicide ganking in this manner is getting an accurate warp-in on top of the target. A friend in a cloaked ship has to locate a target mining barge and get as close as possible without being decloaked.

EVE Evolved side imageSurviving suicide ganks

If you're one of the many miners in EVE and don't want to give up your leisurely profession, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe and limit the damage a suicide ganker can do. Repeat offenders will end up at -10.0 security status very quickly, so if you see a -10.0 player enter the system, it's probably time to get out of the asteroid belt. Unfortunately, there's no way to show security status in the local channel, and by the time a pirate shows up on your overview, it's already too late. Your best option is to find an empty system to mine in and check everyone who enters.

If you can't avoid ganks entirely, it's perfectly feasible to limit the damage by swapping to a cheaper ship like the Covetor. These are still being targeted by suicide gankers but are much cheaper to lose than a Hulk or Mackinaw and can be insured for most of their purchase prices. A few hours of mining in a Covetor will pay for the ship, so losing one isn't such a big setback. If you want to make yourself a less attractive target, a battleship with eight Miner IIs is very difficult to suicide gank and still mines nearly as much as a Covetor. You'll have to empty the cargo hold into a jettisoned container more often, but the added safety of a battleship sized buffer tank is hard to argue with. Even a basic Thorax cruiser can fit five Miner IIs and a 1600mm armour plate.

EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online is a true sandbox game, and as such developers don't ultimately decide how the game is played. Players have created countless emergent professions over the years, from investment banking and gambling to web-admin and artist. With Hulkageddon V's becoming a permanent fixture, we can now add Hulk Hunter to that list.

You can't reasonably tank a mining barge enough to repel a gank, but a vigilant player mining in a quiet system can spot the telltale signs that an attack heading his way. There are plenty of rarely traveled systems out there with barely touched asteroid belts but no stations. Why not set up your own starbase in one of them to use as an ore depot and keep a close eye on the local channel? If you just want to mine casually in highsec while watching TV or reading a book, I'd advise trading in your Hulk for a Covetor or going oldschool with a mining battleship.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.