W-Space: Get Rich and Die Trying

Now You’re Thinking With Wormholes

Players who live in wormhole space inevitably experience a shift in how they conceptualize the game. It’s partly a consequence of living in a place where folds in space-time can effortlessly transport you between what are normally distant regions. To a known space pilot, systems have a permanent spatial arrangement, but for a wormhole space pilot, Domain and Tenerifis can be only a few jumps away.

As a wormhole resident myself, I can tell you that people who live in wormhole space (w-space) almost never expect known space (k-space) pilots to venture far into the gateless unknown and we realize that wormholes are almost non-existent in their minds. The reality is that there are wormholes all over k-space, in almost every constellation. Wormholes are all around them, and yet, when pursuing enemy gangs or scouting for hostiles, it is all-too-common for k-space pilots to completely ignore the possibility that there might be a wormhole nearby. The difference between a k-space and a w-space pilot is almost entirely a matter of perception and this difference isn’t limited merely to how they view travel through space.

This piece will explore a key difference between known space and wormhole space: the perception of ISK among PvP groups. Many pilots see battle reports in w-space involving hugely expensive ships and mods, and what they often take away from the experience is the idea that it’s hard to get into this area of the game. They don’t have the money to afford the kind of ships wormhole players do, and they put off trying to live and fight there, thinking it’s something they can attempt when their bankroll is a lot fatter. This is not how a w-space PvPer views the game at all, and if you're interested in rampaging through the depths of w-space, you will need to change your mode of thinking.

Rationing Fun

For most pilots in EVE, the ISK they have is never enough. The promise of that new ship, skillbook or maybe an expensive BPO is ever-tantalizing and EVE players have been known to do some stunningly boring tasks for hours, days, weeks, and even months to achieve their funding goals. The general term for such activity in video games, and MMOs in particular, is called ‘grinding.’ In EVE it has actually congealed into a style of gameplay: miners, mission-runners and even most people in C1 to C3 w-space have taken what was a chore in other games and turned it into their profession in EVE.

If you doubt this assertion, just consider the professional mission-runner for a minute. This breed of player will spend the vast majority of his or her play time getting talked down to by NPC mission agents and completing the same small collection of missions for a few million ISK each time. Usually the purpose is to buy shinier modules or ships, so they can run those exact same missions again with greater ease. Note that I’m not talking about newer players who are just building a decent bankroll and don’t have the skills to get into bigger and better things yet. The people I’m talking about are those pilots who never get beyond this phase of their EVE lives and view missions as a long-term profession. They are eternally building the faction battleship or marauder of their dreams, complete with deadspace or officer modules and implant sets worth billions. EVE is a sandbox, but mission-runners have chosen to treat it as a theme park by abhorring risk and substituting ship development for gear development.

The example of a professional level 4 mission-runner is obviously an extreme. Most end-game players in EVE operate somewhere in the gray area between an absolute lack of care for their ISK situation and the total aversion to risk that characterizes most of hisec. They grind ISK so they can buy PLEX and engage in more entertaining things like PvP roams, adding to their BPO collection, struggling for dominance in faction warfare, or whatever it is they’re into. If they had an unlimited source of ISK, they would be focusing on their main interest exclusively, but since ISK is fleeting, they need to return to the pixel mines regularly and refresh their bank accounts.

A natural consequence is that throwing ISK around is something most players do sparingly. After all, the sooner they spend their ISK, the sooner they'll have to go back to grinding. Often times, players end up imposing a form of 'fun rationing' on themselves where they will only permit their wallets to dip so much in a given time period and then dial it back for a bit. I know because I’ve been there before. The mindset is that ISK is fun and fun is finite, just like any other scarce resource in New Eden.

Books and Their Covers

It comes as no surprise then, that when these players hear about battles between PvP groups in wormhole space involving dozens of billion-ISK vessels, many of them surmise that they do not qualify for inclusion in the club. In their minds, they don't have nearly enough money to afford this kind of play style and could not imagine themselves regularly fielding faction-fit T3 ships or capitals. Surely, the participants are fabulously wealthy and w-space is their playground. Or so they believe.

I came across a comment in an EVE Reddit thread recently that embodies this kind of thinking:

Question though, it sounds like it'd be tough to actually try out wormhole space by myself (as I am a low SP player). It sounds like people are flying and fighting in really blingy ships with high sp requirements and that you need to really be in a WH corp to do it. Is there any way a new player could contribute and have fun in w-space, other than just serving as a scout that sits cloaked on a gate all the time?

The assumption there is that newer and inexperienced players can't hack it in w-space, for reasons of ISK and skills. That's not true at all. Not all wormholes are created equal and lower-level systems (C1-C3) are very easy for a newer player to practice in. What makes it so easy is that the residents of low-level systems are quite often completely lacking in situational awareness. They think they're safe in their own system, and when they're active, it's usually a simple matter of finding them at a customs office, k-space exit, or anomaly. Mining fleets, lone Drakes, faction battleships, haulers, and even Orcas doing PI (no joke) will present themselves to you fairly often. If you love solo roams or working with a few friends, C1-C3 w-space is the ideal environment.

Even for those looking to move up to serious PvP in C5 and C6 systems, all you'll need is a couple billion in your pocket and a decent history of PvP to show the recruiters. This shouldn't take long to achieve if you've spent a month or two running Sleeper anomalies in the downtime between hunts. Don't worry about affording faction modules yet; the big fights between wormhole groups are not as high-stakes as you might think. Once again, it's all a matter of perspective.

Letting Yourself Become…Tyler Durden

Most players know that you can make gobs of space-cash in w-space but few truly understand the sheer volume of ISK to be had when you live in a high-end wormhole system. Many groups can take down a fully capital-escalated Sleeper site in under ten minutes, earning the participants an average of 1.2B, split 9-14 ways. They might do 3-5 of these in a night and take home somewhere around 350M each for a few hours' worth of work. Any sites run in the static system just add to the total. In addition, there are a fair number of high-end gas sites that require very minimal training and investment to harvest, representing 450-600M per site and split between 3-5 pilots. All told, an individual can make a billion or two per week if they work at it and put in their time.

When you look at it in this context, does it still seem outrageous that high-end wormhole PvP groups would be comfortable pissing away a few billion in a single fight? Of course not. In EVE as in real life, money has a value that we ascribe to it. This has nothing to do with exchange rates or purchasing power; how we value our money, in our minds, is tied pretty closely to how difficult it was to acquire and the amount available to us. This is colloquially called ‘knowing the value of a dollar' and different people have different perceptions of what is appropriate to spend on various goods and services.

To those who were born into poverty, money itself tends to be extremely important. Think about rap stars who decorate themselves with gaudy chains, garish designer clothing and diamonds in their mouths. Some of that is just the flamboyant, in-your-face style of hip-hop but it originated in part because hip-hop was created by a marginalized and materially poor demographic. Growing up, most of them never had money to speak of, and now that they have so much, they want to flaunt their perception of success in the most eye-catching way possible. It's an expression of liberation from the stress associated with being poor and the monetary value of their outfits and jewelry is often far more important than the fashion sense it displays. This is essentially how the average k-space player would behave if presented with 100B ISK.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who were born into wealth or are extremely adept at making money tend to assign a very low psychological value to money itself and appreciate the experiences it can buy them far more highly. Think about Sir Richard Branson, the multi-billionaire founder of Virgin Group. This guy goes around attempting to break world records, traveling into space, and kite surfing with naked models on his back while on vacation in a tropical paradise. On the surface, he seems to do the same thing that rap stars do, which is to say he spends money freely on extravagant things. However, the character and goals of his purchases differ quite significantly. His aim is thrilling experiences and he couldn’t care less about what people think of it.

Now, if you can, imagine a few dozen Richard Bransons flying ultra-high-tech death machines through uncharted space - and they’re all immortal. Are you starting to see where I’m going with this? To outsiders, it might seem like w-space pilots are just extravagant ballers who spend inordinate sums of ISK because they can, but in reality, the play style of PvP corps and alliances in w-space is a product of the environment and in service of something more sublime.

Doing It for the Adrenaline

W-space turns the relationship between ISK and fun on its head. The amount of ISK available to wormhole residents is staggering, and because w-space is so devoid of life, truly good fights come around maybe once every couple weeks if they’re lucky. In the meantime, less-expensive ganks and skirmishes with nullsec players suffice to keep their appetites whetted. What this means for you is that the intimidatingly expensive nature of w-space should not be a deterrent. Simply living in a high-end system for even a month or two with an established corp will turn you into the kind of player who couldn’t care less about losing a billion-ISK Proteus and wouldn’t hesitate to throw a carrier at a mean-looking enemy gang. There will always be more sites to run and gas to harvest. The loss, if it can even be called that, ceases to have meaning.

If material value is no longer important, we are left with intangibles. The thrill of competition and the struggle for bragging rights becomes the all-consuming goal, and an approximation can be found in the mentality of a sports team and their fans. In sports, the outcomes of the matches are, in a material sense, meaningless. Sure, people can and do invest a lot of their time and even identity in the fortunes of their favorite team. Yet, outside of the business aspect, nothing that happens in professional sports affects the larger community of people in a lasting way. It’s pure entertainment and the impact it has is confined to the spectacle of clashing opponents, the rush of the big game, and the story of how it all came down to that final play. The outcome may have no concrete meaning but it remains exciting as a contest of ability, endurance, and spirit. Some contests and rivalries even achieve the status of legend.

It’s a pretty apt analogy – exercise and exertion generally causes our bodies to release endorphins that make us euphoric and lend a general feeling of well-being. You can see this camaraderie and deep sense of contentedness readily in locker room interviews, especially on the winning side. They didn’t gain or lose anything by playing but it was a fulfilling experience all the same. In EVE, there is no physical exertion involved but anyone who has gone on a PvP roam before knows about adrenaline and the quest for space-glory on the field of battle alongside their trusted friends.

Simply put, it’s exhilarating. No other activity in EVE, or any other game I’ve ever played, comes close.

Get Yourself a Gun

W-space is not always exciting, but if there’s one thing that can be said about it, it’s that the play style is fresh and routinely satisfying. Having largely removed the value of ISK from the game experience, w-space life is rewarding because it allows you to play the game for the fun of it, unbound by the normal constraints of fun rationing that most k-space players must work within. Low-end systems are readily accessible to newer players and high-end systems are not a place reserved for the already-wealthy. Living in w-space molds you into a player that perceives the game in a more abstract way and permits you to focus far more on the exciting activities that truly interest you.

If this sounds attractive, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be, start doing some reading about w-space. I guarantee that the barriers to entry are much less difficult to surmount that many players seem to realize. EVE University and the EVE Wiki have some great information on wormhole mechanics, and you’ll probably want to start there. The best way to learn, of course, is to find a wormhole corp recruiting on the EVE-O forums and join up with them. W-space is very under-populated and corps are almost always looking for more pilots to train.

All you have to lose is a little ISK, and over time, even that will not matter.

Straight outta J115405, I'm a wormhole resident and director in Hard Knocks Inc. When not writing about wormhole PvP and events in the greater w-space community, I enjoy jokes about Kazakhstan and the occasional glass of delicious tears.