EVE Evolved: Unleash your inner space janitor

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Did you know that people leave perfectly good stuff just lying around in space? Between abandoned starbases, safespotted containers, floating wrecks, and lost drones, there's a real mess out there in space that somebody aught to clean the hell up. So why doesn't someone get out there with a dustpan and brush and vacuum up everything valuable that isn't bolted down? That's what I've been up to for the past week, and I've found it surprisingly enjoyable and profitable. Building on my recent article on staying safe in lowsec, I put together a strategic cruiser setup designed for rapidly searching through lowsec and nullsec for the goodies others leave behind or don't notice.

What surprised me the most about my journey across the wilderness of nullsec is how many starbase owners allowed their towers to run out of fuel and shut down. Using just the directional scanner, I was able to locate and destroy dozens of unprotected starbase structures, including research labs, ship hangars, corp hangar arrays, and factories. The main target of my exploration escapades was actually the new Ghost Sites introduced in Rubicon, which spawn randomly throughout space and usually end up migrating to systems that aren't frequently used. The ISK per hour may not be very good in hunting these sites, but the payoff of finding the rare Ascendancy Omega blueprint would make it all worthwhile.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I delve into the wonderful world of interstellar trash reclamation and asset liberation. I explain how to find abandoned starbases to loot, and I share some tips on locating and tackling the elusive Ghost Sites.

¥ side imageHow to find abandoned starbases

When a starbase begins running low on fuel, it sends a warning mail every hour to anyone with the required roles to refuel it until it shuts down. If you still manage to avoid filling your space gas tank for over 24 hours with warnings blaring at you, you pretty much deserve to lose whatever's stashed inside the starbase. Once that shield goes down, all ships inside can be boarded and stolen, and every structure can be destroyed and looted. You can tell yourself that it'll be all right to ignore the warning for a few days because nobody will notice an offline starbase, but I'm not the only space janitor out there looking for exactly that.

To find abandoned starbases, just add both Control Towers and Force Fields to your overview and compulsively scan using the directional scanner when travelling through any system. Set the scanner to a 360 degree scan radius and the maximum range, then count the number of control towers and force fields present. If they don't match, there's a tower out there without protection just begging to be attacked. Most such towers are long-forgotten remnants of wars or structures already picked clean by internet spaceship vultures, so the next step is to sort the worthless scan matches from the piñatas waiting to be smashed open.

¥ side imageOMG I FOUND ONE! I'M RICH!

Congratulations on finding a starbase without a shield, but don't get excited yet; you still need to figure out where it is and whether it's lootable. You could waste your time warping around all the moons in a solar system looking for the starbase in question, but it's much quicker to use the directional scanner first. Narrow the scan field from 360 to 30-90 degrees and orient your camera until a planet is in the middle of the screen to scan it. Repeat this over all the planets until you can pinpoint which planet your mystery starbase is actually at, and then warp to that planet. Next, set the range to about 150,000,000km and set the scan field back to 360 degrees so that your new scan will show only starbases at moons orbiting the nearby planet.

If your target disappears, you're at the wrong planet and should expand the scan range to maximum to try again. Once you've got a 150 million km scan with the starbase on it, narrow down the scan radius to 90 degrees and look around until you find it again. Continue to narrow down the scan radius until you get a clean scan with your target starbase on it and no other starbases to interfere with the scan. Now deactivate the "use active overview settings" checkbox and scan again to get a list of the moons the starbase could be at and every object in the vicinity, from ships and containers to structures. Many will be worthless control towers with no modules or just worthless weapons, but some will have potentially valuable ship hangars, corporate hangar arrays, research labs, and manufacturing arrays.
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Above is the Tengu fitting I use to explore deep space. The warp speed rigs cut down on travel time between systems considerably, and investing in some Ascendancy implants would be a definite bonus if I weren't such a miser. This ship can't be caught by anything less than a decloaking tackler and four points of warp disruption, and it can carry a Mobile Depot and a change of clothes that turns it into a combat ship whenever you like. It has probes to hunt down deadspace complexes if you get bored or to find Mobile Depots if you're willing to wait out the 24-48 hour reinforcement timer to finish them off. But finding the occasional abandoned starbase or structure is just a happy byproduct of the main reason it's now desirable to scour deep space: Ghost Sites.

These very rare cosmic anomalies can be identified by the word Covert in their names and can give hundreds of millions of ISK worth of rewards in just a few minutes. They appear on the system scanner as combat anomalies and seem to respawn instantly elsewhere in the universe when completed, so the only way to find them reliably is to systematically visit every solar system in a given region. That's why I prefer the warp speed rigs on the above setup over anything else, as it practically makes the ship travel as if it were a frigate. Getting into nullsec to look for the top tier Ghost Sites is super easy now thanks to wormholes, but if you're sticking to lowsec, then you can swap the Interdiction Nullifier subsystem for a Gravitational Capacitor one and get even more warp speed.

¥ side imageTips on running Ghost Sites

An invisible timer starts when you enter a ghost site, after which reinforcements will arrive to detonate all of the loot containers. This was intended to make the site dangerous, but the damage isn't very high and threatens only frigates. It's not clear whether the timer starts when you click warp or when you arrive on-grid, so to be safe and give myself the maximum time possible, I always warp to a nearby planet and then on to the ghost site. When you enter the site, immediately destroy any white "damaged" ships you see as they appear to make the timer run out more quickly.

Cargo scan all the locked containers first before picking one to approach and hack; you never know which one will have the most valuable loot, and you may only get one of them open before the timer ends. Usually only one or two containers have anything as valuable as a blueprint, but always go for the most valuable one first. You can safely ignore the NPCs that warp in unless you're in a frigate, as they don't deal much damage and the explosions from the containers are pretty tame. The NPCs do warp scramble and web you, but they warp out and leave you alone about 10-20 seconds after the containers detonate.

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Deep space is littered with junk left over from wars, the occasional untended starbase full of loot, and ghost sites that nobody's found yet because they just aren't looking in every little corner of the universe. With the new warp speed changes, a cloaked strategic cruiser can zip around nullsec very quickly and find Ghost Sites pretty reliably. It can also be worthwhile to warp between all of the asteroid belts in each system on your journey in the hopes of getting a faction spawn without wasting time killing any NPCs.

While you're out there looking for space gold, why not unleash your inner interstellar steward and clean up a few of those abandoned starbases? Most will be empty or contain very little of value, but it only takes one corp hangar full of drone minerals or ship hangar with abandoned goodies inside to absolutely make your day, and there could be one right around the next corner.

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.