EVE Online's lifetime, that privilege was reserved for the powerful few leaders of the game's large territorial alliances, which carve up vast swathes of space between them. A handful of alliances still control the lawless nullsec regions today, but there are still opportunities for smaller corporations and even individuals to stake a claim in the chaotic world of wormhole space.
Exploring and farming in wormholes is very profitable activity, but permanently moving in and setting up a starbase can be an intimidating prospect. One wrong decision might lead to pilots getting stranded in the void without bookmarks, your starbase coming under attack, or the whole expedition being robbed blind by a corporate infiltrator. The early days of wormhole exploration were rife with stories of hardship, heists, and devastating wars fought through shifting networks of wormholes. A lot has changed since the wormholes first opened in 2009, and today many of those problems have solutions.
In this EVE Evolved opinion piece, I look at some of the ways wormhole life has improved since Apocrypha and give four of my favourite tips for anyone planning to colonise wormhole space.
Tip #1: Use corp bookmarks
Life in a wormhole can be very profitable, but the ever-shifting nature of wormholes means that you'll log in each day to a new set of wormholes to scan down. Bookmarking your system's wormholes and mapping out routes back to empire is a daily chore, and sharing those bookmarks with the other expedition members used to be a real pain. Players had to manually copy their bookmarks and put them into cargo containers, and those in normal space had no way to physically access them. You could get stuck out of your wormhole system at a critical time or end up stranded in wormhole space with no way home.
Thankfully, CCP took notice of these problems a few years ago and added a corporation bookmark system that makes it quick and painless to share bookmarks with corpmates. Anyone can add a bookmark to the corporation's locations and read them from anywhere in the universe, but only someone with the Communications Officer role can delete them. Corp bookmarks make such a huge difference to the quality of life of those in wormholes that learning to use them should be considered essential for every member of a wormhole expedition.
Tip #2: Be prepared to lose everything
The lack of a local chat channel in wormhole space makes it possible for ships with covert ops cloaking devices to sneak up on you completely unnoticed. It can help to keep your eye on the directional scanner and bail at the first sign of enemy ships or Scanner Probes, but even that isn't 100% effective. The golden rule of wormhole expeditions is to be prepared to lose everything in the wormhole; anything that's not safely extracted and stored in a real space station is always at risk of being smashed to bits.
Some corporations even search for starbases to attack, knowing that most small corporations can't mount any kind of real defense. A Large Control Tower covered in shield hardening arrays or ECM modules and a few Energy Neutralizing Batteries will certainly slow down any sub-capital fleets that decide to attack, but I've found it prudent to never underestimate the resourcefulness of people who specialise in kicking over sandcastles. If you set up in a class 4 or 5 wormhole, there's a very real possibility of a full capital ship assault coming in from a class 6 or nullsec system. There's always a chance that you'll wake up one morning to find your system locked down and a small fleet of capital ships knocking on the door.
Tip #3: Install a refinery or compressor
Wormhole systems offer some impressive opportunities for miners, with ore sites full of colossal asteroids of all types. No matter what ore is the most valuable at a given time, you'll find plenty of it and in large enough quantities that you can park yourself in front of an asteroid for hours uninterrupted. The big down-sides with wormhole mining are the lack of station services and the fact that pirates can now warp right into your site without needing to spend any time scanning for it. Some station services can be replaced by a starbase, and the risks can be somewhat mitigated by using cheaper tech 1 mining ships and implantless clones, but neither is ideal.
Every wormhole miner will know the pain of trying to refine or export ore that's stockpiled in a wormhole system. Starbase Refineries take hours to process a small amount of ore and have a poor mineral yield, and hauling with a basic industrial ship can take even longer. Some corps have actually built Rorquals in their wormholes to compress the ore for transport, requiring an investment of several billion ISK and millions of skillpoints.
Starting in the upcoming Crius release, the Reprocessing Array and Intensive Reprocessing Array will refine ore instantly in batches of up to 200,000m3 and take player skills into account when calculating yield. A new Compression Array will also allow instant ore compression without the need for an expensive Rorqual. If you're running a wormhole expedition or are about to launch one, it might be worth taking a Compression Array or Intensive Reprocessing Array along after the upcoming patch.
Tip #4: Set up permissions properly
In the early days of wormhole exploration, thefts and starbase heists were a regular occurrence. Capital ships were often left floating in a starbase's shield, and anyone with access to the Ship Maintenance Array could run off with all of the corp's ships. Players on the expedition also had to trust that their CEO and corpmates wouldn't pilfer items from the Corporate Hangar Array, and corp permissions were a mess. Giving a player the Configure Starbase Equipment role to let him manage silos and production facilities, for example, also let him switch the shield off and steal everything from under your nose.
The corporation role system will be getting a total revamp at some point in the next few years, but for now it's still very dangerous to give anyone the Configure Starbase Equipment or Director roles. The safest way to manage an expedition is to have each player start his own corporation, but that's hardly ideal. The second best option is to assign a different password on each starbase and uncheck the "allow alliance member usage" and "allow corporation member usage" shield options.
Functions in the starbase settings can be assigned to the Starbase Fuel Technician role, and then everyone who runs a starbase would get that role and the password for his starbase. That way only the CEO and directors can unanchor or anchor structures, and each starbase can be accessed only by a director, the CEO, and any corp member with the password. Until we get a proper corp role revamp, this is probably the most secure way to let corp members run their own starbases.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the bi-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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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EVE Evolved: Four top tips for living in wormholes