Tuesday 10 August 2010

What a Killmail can't tell you

A Killmail is a server generated block of text you recieve in your character sheet whenever you recieve or give the final blow to a capsule (otherwise known as a pod) or another ship. Most pilots view Killmails as the absolute proof, that they show the entire length of the engagement. Here are two examples in a single night where the full extent of the battle cannot be derived from killmails, and is only known to those who were there or have heard about it.

A Night of Hostile Dominixes

The night initially started with the hint of a Paladin kill, missioning in Murethand. Alas, the locals there are pretty good with checking for scanner probes, and he docked up before the prober could get a 100% hit.

After a large Caldari Faction Warfare gang passed through Costolle where we were waiting for the warpin on the Paladin, one of our members decided to head back to Hevrice in his Daredevil. However, he was engaged on the way back by a Harpy belonging to the Faction Warfare gang, and foolishly decided to attempt to burn out of range using his faction stasis webifier on the enemy assault frigate to slow him down. However, as soon as he activated the module the enemy fleet jumped into him and he went down, apparently before they acquired target locks.

I was attempting to pick off the Harpy at long range with my Harbinger, but had to bail after his gang jumped in. I warped to the Star at 30km, waiting to see if anything would try to tackle me. The same Harpy pilot, cocky after his faction frigate kill landed at 0 to the Star and was promptly vaporised in three shots. Revenge is sweet.

After I rejoined the rest of the gang, we moved towards Agoze and the famous Stacmon Loop, a ring of low security systems surrounding Stacmon, a high security trade hub. Whilst not on the same scale as Dodixie or Jita, it is still a sizable trade hub, with a variety of goods available for sale, and a stream of pilots entering and leaving it, providing for a variety of different fights.

A Dominix Class Battleship, a feared sight on any Battlefield

Unfortunately, it seemed like a slow day and the only target we could find was a missioning Dominix accompanied by a salvaging Catalyst in Annancale. Our prober tried to probe him down, but was too slow and the pair docked up. The fleet waited in Agoze on the Annancale stargate, and scouts were sent out in different directions in an attempt new targets. A neutral Dominix belonging to TheMeanMachine was found on a stargate, but he was unwilling to engage our 3 Battlecruisers and light support, so we moved away.

Eventually, the missioning Dominix returned to his mission and was promptly probed down. Our tackler was sent in, a new recruit under the name of AgentEM. He succesfully tackled the Dominix, and we all jumped in, bar our Nemesis pilot who disconnected. The Dominix was promptly destroyed, and was found to have faction goodies!

Whilst waiting out our Global Criminal Countdown (GCC) in a safespot, TheMeanMachine was seen entering local along with a corpmate, both of them in Dominixes. TheMeanMachine was spotted warping to top belt in Annancale, a sign that he was willing to play, now that he had backup.

Our tackler warped in and secured point on the Dominix. The rest of the fleet warped in, and we kept range on the Dominix, as they are fearsome up close when fitted with heavy neutralisers, stasis webifiers and multiple flights of drones. The second Dominix landed as TheMeanMachine entered Armor, and immediately started Remote Repairing him, whilst feeding capacitor back and forth!

Ordering all guns to be overheated, we started carving through his armor slowly until the pair responded by overheating their hardeners as well as their remote armor repairers! At this point, the order was given to stop overheating. Eventually, we lost our Rifter as he strayed too close to the Battleships and was pinned down. Slowly, we were making headway through TheMeanMachine again as he must have been forced to stop overheating his hardeners.

At this point, our Rifter pilot spotted a well known Falcon alt of the pair on his way whilst he was heading back to Hevrice. Preparing for the Falcon, our Nemesis readied his Remote Sensor Dampeners, hoping to damp the Falcon's sensors enough that he would be unable to acquire target locks unless if he moved into range of our Battlecruisers.

Unfortunately, the Falcon decloaked out of range of the Nemesis' own targetting systems and promptly jammed all 3 of our Battlecruisers. The Dominixes began warping off, as they neutralised the capacitor on our remaining tackler. After an epic 10 minute fight, only one killmail was produced and our only complaint was the fact that they had to resort to bringing in a Falcon.

So would the Killmails tell us? That we lost a Daredevil to a Harpy is definetely true, but it does not show why the Daredevil could not simply jump through the stargate due to the enemy fleet on the other side. It just makes it appear that me and the Daredevil fought the Harpy at the same time, and we lost the Daredevil during the course of the fight. The vast majority of the fleets present did not appear on the killmails, and it seems like a small engagement rather than a potentially much larger one.

Similarly, the lossmail of our Rifter makes it appear that we had to leave the Rifter to die because we could not kill the Dominixes, which is as fair from the true as you can get: the Dominixes were dying and had to get additional help in order to even withdraw.

Hunting Orcas

In the natural world, the Orca (or killer whale) is an apex predator, with no known natural predators. In Eve Online, this is not the case and an Orca is a vessel designed for peaceful mining operations. The official description of this vessel is:

The Orca was developed as a joint venture between Outer Ring Excavations and Deep Core Mining Inc as a vessel to help meet the demands of New Eden's industry and provide a flexible platform from which mining operations can be more easily managed.

The Orca uses much of the technology developed by ORE for the Rorqual and integrated with the latest advancements from Deep Core Mining research division has developed a vessel which offers a diverse role to all sizes of operations and needs.

An Orca undocking from a station in high security with a full load of ore

Another common use of the Orca is that of a Hauler: it is able to transport significant amount of ships through empire space, being especially useful for war decced corporations, as a home away from home, allowing allowed pilots the ability to re-ship whilst in space, as well as swapping out modules. This is especially useful for Ninja-Salvaging corporations operating in high security.

A sub use of the Orca is as a ship to take supplies in and out of a wormhole. They are often heavily protected by a tough escort, whilst having numerous scouts confirming that the path ahead is clear of enemies and all is well. A killing of an Orca is a prize amongst pirates, being ranked even above killing a Hulk, but below killing a Freighter.

However, it is possible to see an unscouted Orca, even in an active low security system. As was the case yesterday.


As the fleet winded down, we moved back to Hevrice and people started logging off. Me and Laranz0 (the Rifter pilot mentioned above) decided to see what we could find in Aeschee and the surrounding systems before also calling it a night. Alas, all the surrounding systems were empty. As we started heading back to Hevrice, Laranz0 reported that he saw an Orca jumping into Aeschee as he jumped into Onne!

Hurrying back, he reported that the Orca was not on the other side of the stargate, but was still in local. However, he disappeared from local and did not appear to jump into any of the surrounding systems. Whilst checking these systems again for where he had gone, he suddenly reappeared in local and Laranz0 warped back to the Onne gate. Just as he landed, the Orca landed 10km off him!

Making best speed to his location, I dropped out of warp on the stargate in my shield Harbinger just as a neutral Tengu landed. The Tengu warped off, whilst the Orca remained. A quick query over comms to a member who had an Orca alt revealed that an Orca has approximately 80,000 EHP if he is fit for travel, with no Damage Control. If he had a Damage Control fitted, he would have nearly 180,000 EHP, more than double the amount due to the massive structure tank on an Orca!

Running some quick calculations, I came to the conclusion that it would be possible for me to kill the Orca on the stargate before the gateguns got me, if I was able to regenerate some shields. Therefore our plan was born: Laranz0 in his Rifter, being unable to tank gateguns for any amount of time would be forced to keep bumping the Orca whilst I would fire on the Orca, warping off if needed and then back to Laranz0 after regenerating some shields.

The plan decided, all that was left was to implement it! Springing it into action, I kept my range on the Orca and pummeled him with Scorch whilst Laranz0 commenced the bumping! He asked me to stop firing, but I simply did not have the time to comply: he was going to have to go down!

I managed to take him down to Structure before I was forced to warp off at 20% shields, and was pleased to see that he had no Damage Control fitted as I was hitting him for far more in structure than I was in his armor and shields.

As I was warping back to Laranz0 after regenerating some shields, I swapped crystals to Imperial Navy Multifrequency and prepared to overheat the guns, resolving to take him down by also releasing my drones this time as cannon folder for the gateguns, buying me more precious time. This time I would get him!

Unfortunately, just before I landed Laranz0 reported that the Orca had finally aligned and was gone, warping to a station! Half-heartly asking him for a 500M ransom to be left alone, he ignored me. It turns that Laranz0's Rifter was unable to get enough momentum to actually bump the Orca laterally and was just able to slightly deflect it. As the Orca landed in the station, he docked and logged. At this point, most pirates would have let him go and chalked it up as an experience to learn from. However, my reasoning was that I almost killed him and almost is not good enough!

Reasoning that the Orca would eventually leave the station, we just had to find out what he was doing. It was obvious that he was hauling something, but why and where? A few seconds of pondering and a likely scenario was thought up. The Orca must have been ships and modules into a wormhole! That would explain why he chose to use an Orca, as they are easier to move then freighters but can still store a very large amount of minerals and modules.

Now it was time to prove my hypothesis. Tasking my prober alt to start scanning down wormholes in Aeschee, I found two. The first one had two POSes on scan, and narrowing down the POS to the moon revealed a Imicus, Heron and Badger inside the shield, with the frigates being pilotted by players in the same corporation as the Orca pilot. Clearly we had found the wormhole the Orca was trying to get into!

By now, we were joined by a few other members, one of which brought his cloaky alt into Aeschee, keeping an eye on the station as my alt exited the wormhole and provided bookmarks to all involved.

For the next 2 hours, we slowly kept ourselves busy outside Aeschee, as we feared they had neutral alts keeping a tab on things. I managed to snag a kill as I was waiting to pass the time, but it seemed like the Orca would not log on. Our only hope was that as a wormhole closes after a limited amount of time, he would have to try again within a few hours to guarantee that it would still be there.

Eventually, I spied a Buzzard exiting the Orca's wormhole, the pilot being a member of the Orca's corporation. A quick look through the Orca's employment history revealed that he had joined the wormhole corporation within the last 24 hours, making it likely that he was moving expensive ships into the wormhole and vital supplies!

After the Buzzard was in local for a few minutes and seemingly cloaking up on the exit of the wormhole, disaster struck and my alt got disconnected whilst on the exit as well. Fearing that the Buzzard would have spotted him as he got decloaked and emergency warped, we prayed that he was blind and didn't notice.

Logging him back on, there was no immediate change for the next few minutes. At this point, I moved him out of local, the hope being that by leaving local, the Orca pilot's corpmate would relay to him that it was clear to log back in and get into the wormhole. At first, it didn't seem to work but just before my alt was about to re-enter Aeschee after he finished checking out a few more systems nearby the Orca pilot logged back on!

After a few tense minutes, the cloaky alt outside the station reported that the Orca had undocked and was initiating warp, back towards the wormhole. As we all got on the Aeschee gates in our respective systems (we split up as well just in case), the scout spoke quietly over comms saying that the Orca had initiated warp!

In one moment, we all jumped into Aeschee and warped to the wormhole. I reported the Orca being on scan on 360 degrees around the wormhole, but not on the wormhole, not yet anyway. As we all landed, the Orca suddenly disappeared on directional scan!

As we all expressed our shock, we noted that the wormhole was in the centre of Aeschee, with several celestials on scan as well as another station. As we were about to pack up and leave, sure that we had spooked the Orca, the Orca appeared back on scan towards the 2nd station!
As I initiated warp to the station the Orca was on scan towards, my heart fluttered and then speed up as the Buzzard was reported to have decloaked on the wormhole with the rest of my fleet. Damn, now they would know we were ready for the Orca and would just dock up again!

Our pilots were feeling faint hearted, and none attempted to tackle the Buzzard who warped off before I could acquire a target lock by canceling my warp. However, as I re-initiated my warp drive, I could still see the Orca on scan towards the station. Midway through warp, on short range scan I could only pick up my fleet and the Orca, but not the station. "Was it possible" I wondered quietly,  as I half-heartily spoke on comms, telling them the Orca might be on its way. As I dropped out of warp on the station, my fleet informed me that the Orca had ARRIVED on the wormhole entrance.

As everyone yelled out in surprise, I quietened comms down and told three pilots, all of them in frigates to jump into the wormhole just as the Orca himself jumped! Back in warp towards the wormhole, I told the remaining two pilots, one of them in a Hurricane class Battlecruiser and the other the original Rifter pilot, now reshipped into a Jaguar to remain on the wormhole entrance in Aeschee and prepare for MAX BUMPING.

As the pilots inside the wormhole reported that the Orca had jumped back into Aeschee, I informed them that they would have to remain inside the wormhole, just in case the Orca managed to slip past us back into the wormhole.

I finally landed on the wormhole and deployed my drones, and start circling the wormhole getting ready for the Orca. As he decloaked 7km off my bow, I locked him and started to acquire firing solutions as well as warp disrupting hi, preventing from warping as my corpmates did the same.

With the firepower of the Hurricane and the Jaguar, as well as my Harbinger, he was going down quickly without sentry guns defending him. But would we be able to prevent him from jumping back in? To that end, both Battlecruisers started flying towards him, at full ramming speed. As we landed successful bumps, we pushed him 17km off the wormhole, 12km from safety by jumping back into the wormhole.

Not wanting to deprive my corpmates of their presence on the killmail, I ordered everyone in the wormhole to jump back into Aeschee and tag themselves on the killmail. As they did so, we finally destroyed the Orca. RIP S.S. Killer Whale (yes that was the Orca's ship name).

Our pilots managed to tackle the pod, and we successfully acquired a 200M ransom for the pod. Looking inside the wreck, we could see a single piece of faction, worth ~150M as well as some PI modules. Together, they would give us each roughly 60M.

We attempted to sell the loot back to the owner, but he logged off before we could finalise the details and therefore we get our own hauler in and picked everything up and escorted it back to Hevrice.

The Killmail of the Orca does not tell you the full story: how this was the second attempt to kill it, and the final attempt which successfully caught and killed it.

As a side note, it is Kishin Hattori's birthday today, and for that I dedicate the following picture to him.


Cute and deadly, a true pirate of the sea