This week, in our “State of the Game” series, Johnny Splunk, founder of EVE-Scout, discusses where exploration stands, and the outlook for the coming months.
Exploration Alpha Clones
Recently it was announced by CCP Seagull that “Clone scientists in New Eden have discovered a way to make clones that come with prepared neural pathways for a certain set of skills.” There will be two new clone states, Alpha and Omega. The Alpha clone state have a limited ability to train skills, and will be freely available to all who wish to become capsuleers. Omega clones require an active subscription and have no limits.
Racial skill sets for Alpha clone states were also shared in this announcement. According to the dev blog, Alpha clones will be limited to racial Tech 1 frigates, destroyers, cruisers and industrials. This also includes corresponding racial faction ships and the Gnosis. Fittings will be limited by the skill set as well.
I immediately began contemplating the capabilities of Alpha clones, and how well they will be able to explore. The primary question I wanted to answer was, “What areas of space could these new clones explore?” Before placing my own hopes for Alpha clones and possibly being disappointed, I wanted to determine CCP’s goals. The best way I could do that was to review the announcements thoroughly. I could only find one reference to exploration in their announcements.
“They will be doing everything from rampaging null sec in Caracal fleets to exploration sites in high sec to playing a major role in faction warfare.”
If we take this literally and not as an attempt to show contrasting activities, it would appear that their goals are for explorers to stay in the “safe harbor” of high security space. I then moved on to evaluating the Alpha skill set and did some test ship fittings. The skills related to exploration are:
(Racial) Frigate 4
Astrometric Acquisition 2
Astrometric Rangefinding 2
These skills will allow for the use of Tech 1 Data and Relic Analyzers. Tech 1 exploration frigates will also be available along with their corresponding exploration bonuses. With complementary equipment, a scan strength of around 80 will be achievable. This will permit Alpha clone explorers to probe down more difficult sites like the Crystal Quarries.
Alpha clones, however, will be unable to equip cloaking devices. I speculate that this was decided for two reasons. First, to wipe away any chance of tears from null security space ratters and wormhole residents. Last year, CCP Fozzie shared his position on cloaked scouts: “We’re not worried about cloaked ships being overpowered because cloaked ships do very little DPS.” This statement is entertaining, but the reality is that cloaked scouts have a large psychological effect on other pilots. CCP understands this and so far has only been willing to allow paid accounts to use cloaks.
Another possible reason for not permitting the use of cloaks is that there needs to be enough friction for Alpha clones that they consider upgrading to an Omega clone. The skill set allows for all of the necessary modules for exploration. While a cloaking device provides greater safety while traveling through hostile space it is not necessary when you are a more experienced pilot. Newer pilots can’t wait to equip the cloak because it provides a much needed confidence that they will be able to travel a little safer. When an Alpha clone pilot decides they would like to attempt more difficult exploration they may be more willing to upgrade to an Omega clone.
From my initial evaluation it appears that Alpha clones will have access to enough skills and equipment to make null sec and wormhole exploration viable, which is important because these areas of space deliver the best rewards. Our experience in Signal Cartel is that even new players on current trial accounts will head to null sec and wormhole space without being able to use a cloak, and find success. Exploration, along with null sec ratting and DED complexes, appear to be the activities that will offer the most earning potential for Alpha clones.
To complete my evaluation I decided to simulate an Alpha clone on Tranquility. I started a new character and injected skills from the announced skill map. I fit up a Caldari Heron exploration frigate and set out to null sec to gauge the difficulty of the new clone state. Over the course of two sessions I employed “The Rule of Six” hacking technique (explained below) and failed only one or two cans. I collected 300 million ISK in loot and safely ferried my ship back to high sec by setting my route through wormholes.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the exploration capabilities of Alpha clones. It’s not easy with such limited skills, but the challenge is met with good rewards and is a satisfying experience. New players will have an excellent opportunity to try out an exploration career. Should they have the means to upgrade to an Omega clone, there is enough incentive in unlocking cloaking devices and more capable exploration ships to make doing so worth it. I feel that New Eden’s clone scientists did an excellent job in determining the right skillset to meet the goals of this new program. I’m looking forward to flying alongside and coaching the new Alpha clone explorers.
The Rule of Six
If the quality of station billboards sank to the level of Jita Local advertisements, we would likely see something like this, “Data and relic containers hate this explorer! Learn how to get rich with minimal skills using this one simple trick.” Surprisingly, I’ll share a foolproof way of doubling your ISK.
Over a year ago I met a very crafty and tenacious capsuleer by the name of Damien Oxytocin. We would have private chats between his attempts to smash my ships into space dust. One day he shared a secret of the hacking mini-game with me that sounded to good to be true. The secret he revealed made it possible to hack even the most difficult relic and data sites with minimal skill points.
I learned that there is a fault in the mini-game. He shared the following observations:
- Any node surrounded by six nodes is most times safe to click.
- If you encounter a trap in that center node, you will find the system core located in the surrounding six nodes.
This rule has never failed to be true.
I thought to myself, “Surely, this can’t be right? I’ve accessed these sites thousands of times, likely tens of thousands of time. How come I’ve never noticed this pattern?”
I immediately undocked my Astero and sought out the nearest data or relic sites to test this trick. I still remember the first trap that I found surrounded by six other nodes and the anticipation of validating Damien’s claims. I defeated the trap and searched for the system core nearby. Bingo! The system core was found and the mini-game was solved.
My head started to hurt as if I had installed a malfunctioning implant. The way I traveled through the mini-game was like muscle memory from years of exploration. I had to throw out how I normally approached the mini-game and augment it with these new facts. The next several weeks I had to fight the urge to attack the game the same way as I always had. Using the Rule of Six, the results were always the same.
The significance of this rule is that you can avoid many of the traps of the mini-game and preserve your virus coherence. With level 3-4 skills you can travel to null security and wormhole space and be a successful explorer. As you move through the mini-game, try to prioritize your route through nodes that are surrounded by six others. Not only will you preserve your coherence, but get a clear signal that you’ve found the system core when you stumble upon a trap.
I began demonstrating this trick on Twitch.tv. At about the same time, Damien had taken fellow streamer ScaredPanda under his wing and trained her to use this rule. After weeks of sharing this trick on my stream, a viewer and corp member, Gloombot, coined the name, “The Rule of Six”. This incredible trick now had a catchy name which has helped to propagate this technique to other explorers across the cluster.
The Rule of Six points to a serious but beneficial glitch in these sites. Perhaps it’s the consequence of so-called “legacy code”? If so, I proclaim my love of this bit of legacy code and I’ll regret the day when it is replaced by a more capable AI. And I’m sure Alpha clones who learn the Rule of Six will love that code even more, since it will let them hack faster even with their limited skills, making exploration even more viable as a career for them.