Header Art by Redline XIII
One of the most enigmatic areas of space in Eve Online technically doesn’t even exist in New Eden at all: the Anoikis Galaxy. This is Wormhole Space, known as “J-Space” to the locals. The term comes from the names of the individual systems. All solar systems in wormhole space beginning with the letter “J”.
CCP introduced J-Space with the Apocrypha Expansion back in March of 2009. Nevertheless, it is an area of the game that is still misunderstood by a large population of players. With that in mind, let’s delve into some of the secrets of the invisible monsters that occupy these obscure regions of Eve Online and attempt to decloak some of their mysteries.
Life in the Hole
First and foremost, J-Space is some of the most inhospitable space in the game. Contrary to common belief, it can be very demanding of even high skill point players to be successful. There is no immediate update to Local Chat to reveal the terrors lurking about, and no way to cyno in rescue fleets should something go awry.
Living in wormholes presents significant logistical challenges as well. How significant depends on how deep down the rabbit hole you choose to carve out a dwelling. Entire regions of the game can effectively be cut off from you for an unknown duration of time. It is entirely dependent on an unstable, random chain of connections through hostile space. And that chain requires the player to scan down each connection with probes. To make matters worse, if you find yourself unfortunate enough to not only lose your ship but also your capsule you’ll be ejected from wormhole space altogether. You wake up back in whatever location in Known Space you set your medical clone in. There is no option to assign your home station to anywhere in J-Space, and you cannot jump clone in.
If that doesn’t sound dreadful enough, there are further complications even still. For example the Asset Safety mechanics introduced with Citadels doesn’t exist. Anyone willing to invest the time and effort to remove your structures from space will be rewarded with whatever precious goods you had laying about. It’s potentially very lucrative for the attackers. As a result, it’s not that uncommon to see.
Even doing activities such as Industry or running Combat Sites can often present daunting challenges to the uninitiated. Harvesting resources to fuel industry endeavors, even something as simple as mining ice for fuel blocks, is often a suicidal endeavor without extensive back up support from your Corporation or Alliance. And using a Rorqual locks the player on grid for any random group to stumble across. It can be nerve-wracking at best.
Infrastructure Hubs are also a no-go, so you are dependent on a limited number of randomly spawning Combat Sites or Gas/Ore Deposits to make ends meet. Speaking of Combat Sites, the Sleeper NPCs that replace the traditional pirates don’t carry bounties. That means they don’t automatically deposit ISK into your wallet in 20 minute “ticks”. They drop an assortment of items known as “Blue Loot” that has to be transported back to Known Space and sold. This means hours upon hours of effort could be stolen or destroyed by another player if you are caught with this valuable cargo.
Without Territorial Claim Units, Sovereignty cannot be claimed in any system in J-Space. The best a player community has to settle for is an elaborate network of structures and plenty of firepower on hand to defend it. This means that the Corporation or Alliance claiming the wormhole for themselves do not receive the privilege of having their name on it in the same way organizations in Null Sec do; they settle for their flag existing on their structures only. However there are groups that take it a step further and place their structures into “holding” Corporations that masks who the true inhabitants of the system actually are. Seasoned wormhole denizens are nothing if not masters of deception, a trait highly coveted by these shadowy fringe dwellers.
So with all this in mind, and believe me there are still even more drawbacks I’ve yet to mention, why on earth would someone want to live in J-Space?
The Stick is the Carrot
Despite the aspirations of many of small groups or individuals looking to set up a base of operations for “striking it rich”, the heart’s-blood of J-Space is Player Versus Player engagements. The nature of Wormholes makes for some really amazing mechanics. Tactical battles just don’t work the same as elsewhere in Eve Online. Anyone coming to J-Space without a desire to trade blows with the other locals quickly becomes a punching bag. The PvP activity often makes their endeavors fruitless. At the very least, they’re hindered enough to question if it’s even worth the effort.
There are Wormhole Groups (as mentioned above) that will target small industrial or PVE-centric Corps. They siege the target’s home systems, attempt to destroy their structures. The truly meek find themselves turned into little more than loot piñatas. But this kind of activity is frowned upon by most wormhole inhabitants, so long as the target contributes some level of player versus player content to J-Space. Most veteran wormholers believe that evicting players from J-Space only decreases the amount of content available for everyone. That said, an infinitesimally small amount of these veterans mourn the loss of what they affectionately call “Carebears” from Wormhole Space.
Groups that do take the initial plunge with the goal of concentrating their efforts on tactical player versus player combat are rarely disappointed—although perhaps often outclassed—so long as they maintain a certain level of respect for the other entities they will be engaging regularly. The lack of players appearing immediately in Local Chat means nearly everyone uses cloaking devices. Familiarity with the Directional Scanner is a must. Wormhole veterans can use it dozens of times a minute while undocked, and can be extremely efficient at pinpointing a target in seconds.
Fighting the Good Fight
The residents of a wormhole system are typically considered to be at an advantage over any fleet engaging them in their home system. However, abusing this advantage is a quick way to have the entire wormhole community looking to relocate you. Most of the established wormhole groups hold each other to something akin to a pseudo-Ronin Code. That is to say they seek honorable combat utilizing legitimate doctrines and tactics, with minimal harassment.
There is a bit of fluidity to this honor code though, as there are no rules carved in stone. Still, developing a reputation for not being honorable can quickly cause some huge issues for an organization. As a result, a good number of Wormhole Corporations and Alliances maintain a solid reputation for these “Honor Brawls”. Some even go so far as agreeing over fleet compositions prior to fighting. However, this is not to say these same entities would not drop unfair numbers to “gank” an enemy PVE ship they find ratting or mining. Quite the contrary; these targets are seen as “fair game” and it’s expected by everyone that if you can catch them, you definitely should kill them. Often, ganking someone initiates the forming of an honor brawl. Other times they are simply used as bait to turn the tables on would-be gankers.
The mechanics of wormholes limits the size of fleets. What those limits are depends on the class of the wormhole system in question, scaling from Class 1 to Class 6. Only the two highest class wormholes allow capital ship movement between systems. Even then, the number of capitals that can traverse a wormhole is low. For a one-way trip, the largest wormholes fit three capitals. If they want to get home again, only one.
Another major perk to these kind of fleet engagements is inability to light a cyno to bring along any surprises. The mass of the wormhole connection also limits the size and number of ships that can safely pass through them without risking assets and pilots being trapped or left behind when the connection collapses. As a result, players fit out some very expensive Tech II and/or Tech III fleets. Sustained by the riches available in J-Space, the fear of capital blobs or massively overwhelming numbers are eliminated.
A large wormhole fight usually is less than 60-70 pilots in total. Most fights consist of less than half those numbers. This means that every player on each side is significant. Every loss is felt, especially if the pilot also loses their pod, as they will be unable to return to the fight. Even when a brawl includes capital ships you’ll typically only see a handful of them used due to the mass limitations on wormhole connections.
Down the Hole…
These kinds of random engagements are possible due to the way Wormholes work. Every system, depending on the class of the wormhole, has either one or two “statics”. These are persistent connections that always respawn, and lead to the exact same kind of space. For example a Class 2 Wormhole always has a Known Space connection of a specific type (Null, Low, or High Security Space) and a J-Space connection (of any Class 1 through 6). Since Wormholes only allow a certain amount of mass through them before they collapse, a Wormhole’s static connections respawn after they collapse and connect to another random system of the specified type.
Wormhole inhabitants will often purposefully collapse their statics to respawn them repeatedly to search for targets or other wormhole entities they can potentially engage. This is referred to as “Rolling” a wormhole. If someone is mining with a Rorqual in a wormhole and a group randomly rolls into that person’s hole, the rolling group has a very juicy target to engage. Meanwhile, the Rorqual pilot now has a hostile fleet to contend with that has suddenly appeared through a random cosmic signature.
Player entities that live outside of J-Space don’t typically observe the same approach to fleet engagements. As such, when wormhole entities spill forth to engage a target in K-Space, it’s usually to catch some unfortunate individual who wasn’t paying attention to random cosmic signatures spawning. The nature of the mechanics wormholers are required to live by make them often very efficient at grabbing targets at breakneck speeds.
This obviously paints an obscured picture of the nature of wormhole space for the rest of the EVE Community, although it’s a sentiment most individuals of the wormhole community love to indulge in. Living the wormhole life is rife with challenging gameplay and logistical nightmares. It is some of the most unforgiving space you can choose to explore. This article barely even holds a candle into these shadowy dark alleys that exists in Eve Online. However, some of the best tactical engagements the game has to offer can be found in J-Space. And they are nearly always free from Time Dilation and capital ship blobs. Wormholes provide access to incredible wealth to players willing to brave the shadows. But be warned, monsters lurk in those shadows. If you’re not careful, they take it all away from you.