Who am I to write such a guide? I dunno. I have flown throughout zero space almost exclusively for the last nineteen months, I have moved huge amounts of assets deep into the frontier (once making 17 47 jump trips in a few days time with only one ship lost), I used to make Badger runs from Empire each week deep into zero and only ever lost ONE Badger, and I spent months mapping Catch, Immensea and other regions of all enemy installations, jump bridges and whatnots... so you be the judge.
So you want to fly in Zero Space?
Excellent choice. Zero or Null Space is where all the fun is, despite what those low-sec people will tell you, it's where all the cool kids hang out. Successfully flying through zero is easy, fun and highly rewarding... ok, I'll be honest with you, it isn't easy but it can be fun and rewarding.
For the purpose of this guide we will assume a few things to make it easier to understand. You are a lone ship flying to the end of the universe from Empire to some distant, dark corner. You don't have anyone to help you, except for this guide, and every ship you encounter is a threat. And you don't have any bookmarks already saved. That'll be easy since it is almost always actually true. We won't muck this up with talk of Corps and Alliances, blues and reds, that'll be another guide on another day. k?
A Few Things First
> Zero is not Low-Sec! Get this thru your thick skull because it will save your life, Zero Space is much different than even the nastiest low-sec system. Why? One huge, big difference. Anyone can attack you at any time and any place in zero. Anywhere. At the Gate, at a Planet, in a Belt, at the Station, anywhere they want.
> Bubbles. And not the fun kind that you blow. The people that want to kill you have some nasty tools at their disposal in Zero, Gate Bubbles, Interdiction Bubbles, Drag Bubbles and they are nasty and hard to survive. But not impossible.
> Your ship. It is the single most important thing you have and how it operates are essential to surviving the trip. The harder your ship is to "point", which means getting tackled by a warp disruptor, scrambler, or shoulder-mounted warp disruption generator, the more likely you are to live. So small, slick, fast and cloaky - or SSFC - are the factors that determine how well you will do.
SMALL - Small isn't just the size of your ship but its Signature Radius. This is the number that determines how big your ship APPEARS to other ships. It is a number which can be manipulated and changed not only by you, but by external factors. Learn the zen of the SR, it is extremely important. Survivability comes down to a simple equation, the smaller the SR the harder you are to lock, hit and destroy.
SLICK - Some ships are harder to point than other ships. Every ship has a number of points assigned to it and the tackler's disruptors and scramblers have points assigned to them, this is where the term "point" comes from. You can manipulate your points to a certain degree with modules like the Warp Core Stabilizer. But those come with hefty penalties, the WCS reduces your optimal range by HALF! And some ships, like the Impel, give bonuses to their points making them almost impossible to tackle.
FAST - Speed is your friend. The faster you go the less likely someone can catch you. Duh. But it is important to remember that not all speed is good speed. Remember the SR? One factor that can increase your SR is using a Micro Warpdrive, when you turn that thing on your SR blooms to the targeting computers of the enemy. But, you shouldn't fly in zero without a mwd installed. Speed is king.
CLOAKY - Being able to turn invisible is obviously a great trick and confounds the enemy. Fitting a cloak is a good idea if your ship is able to warp and cloak at the same time. If not, it can be more of a burden than a help. Because you are stuck, and not only that, the penalties on targeting when you uncloak mean if they find you they will kill you. Although if you can get safe and cloak up, you can wait until the oven cools down. So cloaks are generally a good idea if you can.
Ok, so, you are sitting on the last low-sec gate and when you jump thru you will be in zero space! Very exciting, your heart should be pounding because most likely this gate will be guarded. Most low-sec entry gates into zero are, some more than others depending on the systems, war decs and the state of affairs on the other side. All of which you are not privy to.
So what do you do? Jump baby! Take the plunge, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let's take a look at the options:
BUT FIRST: Hold cloak! When you jump you land cloaked, even if your ship doesn't have a cloak. It is a game mechanic you need to learn to exploit. You have about 30 seconds of being invisible to asses the situation, USE IT!
OPTION ONE: No one is there! It's your lucky day my friend. What do you do now? You jump down to the section below called The Gate and read on.
OPTION TWO: There are a few ships on the gate but no visible bubbles. So you hold cloak and look at the enemy ships, they don't have a HIC, DIC so you don't have to worry about bubbles. They don't even have an interceptor. Select a planet in your overview or by right clicking in space and warp to a random distance, NEVER WARP TO ZERO!
Now skip down to the section called The Gate and read on.
OPTION THREE: As above, no bubbles, but this time they have a ceptor buzzing around. The determining factor in your next course of action is simple, how close is the ceptor to you and how good is your SSFC Numbers? We'll be talking about that coming up.
OPTION FOUR: Bubble on the gate! You are trapped in a bubble! Your heart sinks as you realize you are doomed, but not so fast, there are ways to survive this horrible turn of events.
Gates in zero are your friends and your worst nightmare. But there are several things you need to know about them that will help you survive your travels. First of all there are no gate guns in zero and Concord is no where to be seen. That means most of the action in zero revolves around gates. So understanding them is very important.
If you come out of a jump into a situation, bubbles or tackle or blob, you have 2 choices: BURN or RUN.
BURN is heading back to the gate at the fastest speed possible, mods on full and hoping to jump back the way you came. That can be a very scary 12k but it can work. The important thing is to not engage the enemy because if you do you won't be able to jump, you'll have aggro. If you are bubbled, burning might be your only option.
This is where experience and judgement come into play. Getting good at assessing the situation while remaining cloaked for those 30 seconds is a skill that comes with time. If you are close to the edge of the bubble, running may be a better option that burning.
RUN! Even in a bubble, running can be an option. If the odds are overwhelming, or your ship has no tank, or if you are a cloaky warp ship, then running may be your best option. But how?
First of all never run to the next gate, that is bad. Never warp to a planet at zero, that is worse. The idea is to minimize the align time of your ship and maximize the speed of your warp. Find the closest edge of the bubble and any celestial objects, belts or planets (NEVER Moons! Zero moons have POS structures at them and they will shoot and kill you!) and align to the nearest one. Now burn, overheat if you can, cloak if you can, and start spamming the warp button. If you get tackled, kill the ship with the point. If you get away it is important to warp again, to another celestial as soon as you land. They might be chasing you. I would.
The only time you warp to a zero gate at zero is when there is no one else but you in local. Even then it isn't such a good idea, because someone may come thru your destination gate while you are in warp. I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me.
Warping to the next gate from the entry gate is stupid. Why? Because the bad guys may have a drag bubble. These things are nasty and will pull you away from the gate in warp and land you far away from the gate in a bubble. They will swarm you and kill you.
But the drag bubble can be beat. It works by a complex math formula, but the important thing to remember is angles. A drag bubble is set up in-line with the object you want to pull from, a gate or a station usually. It is most effective when warping ships approach from that angle, it is increasingly less effective the further away from that angle the warping ship is. So you want to be as far away from the approach angle as you can be.
So, in zero, when entering a system always warp to a planet first. (Unless you have intel, a scout, a bookmark on the gate, blah blah.) Luckily many gates are located right next to a planet, I call these Scan Planets because you can warp to them and scan the gate from safety. Which is a huge advantage. Regardless, this allows you to approach the next gate from a different angle and gives you a much better chance of not being dragged into the drag bubble.
There is more to learn. But these are the basic tenets of traveling successfully in zero and they work. I'll be writing more later on about some of these specific examples, but for now I think class is over. Enjoy the playground.
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