Some time ago I asked myself, “What is the best doctrine for exploration?”
Now that I have written this question in a forum post, I realised that it sounds ambiguous and requires definition of the terms. Let’s start with the last one – exploration. People explore for various reasons: to see sights, to tend caches, to get lost… What I meant by exploration was a commercial activity – finding relic and data sites, and hacking them with an intention of turning a profit.
Next is “doctrine”. The term is normally used for combat fleets and encompasses ship fittings and fleet tactics. Although in my case the object of a doctrine is a solo explorer, I thought it would be a more appropriate concept than “fit”, since a fit determines a modus operandi and vice versa.
And finally, how do you define “the best”? In a commercial context, this always means money – the more the better. It may also mean the speed of earning it, known as ISK per hour. Being an immortal capsuleer I didn’t really care about counting hours. Instead, I counted the systems, so the scale on which I measured success of exploration doctrines was ISK per system.
But how can one prove that one doctrine is better than another? One way is to have a rowdy argument with yourself and, using the full gamut of personal biases and forum opinions, cow yourself into accepting a totally unsubstantiated point of view. Another one is the scientific method: experiment, observe, rinse and repeat. After a rowdy argument with myself I cowed myself into accepting that the scientific method was better for my soul.
For my first experiment I chose a doctrine which appealed to me, a space-poor explorer, as it focused on preserving my initial investment – the ship. The idea was to explore only quiet systems and run for the hills (that’s where I normally organise my safe spots) at the first sign of activity on D-scan. Since my ship of choice was a Caldari T2 exploration frigate, the doctrine was named Cowardly Buzzard.
The simple definition of the doctrine belies the multitude of ways it can be implemented. The following list describes the parameters I chose for this experiment:
- Area of exploration: Anoikis systems, classes 1-3.
- Object of exploration: pirate data and relic sites.
- Hack a data or a relic site as soon as I scan it down.
- Hack only containers which are worth at least one million ISK.
- Hack the most valuable containers first.
- The value of loot is estimated as the buy price in Jita. The value of blueprints is estimated as the lowest price in contracts.
- Next wormhole to jump is selected on a FIFO basis. (As my main goal during exploration was cache tending, I did not prioritise C1-C3 systems. The first wormhole I scanned down was the first one I jumped through.)
The total number of C1-C3 systems visited was 50.
Finally, the fit:
[Buzzard, Cowardly Buzzard] Nanofiber Internal Structure II Micro Auxiliary Power Core II Relic Analyzer II Scan Rangefinding Array II Data Analyzer II Cargo Scanner II 5MN Microwarpdrive II Festival Launcher Covert Ops Cloaking Device II Expanded Probe Launcher II Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints II Small Emission Scope Sharpener II Sisters Core Scanner Probe x16 Four Freedoms Firework x50 Core Scanner Probe I x40 Sisters Combat Scanner Probe x8 Core Probe Launcher I x5
The fit has an atrocious 6-second align time but it was not designed to deal with situations where an attacker was already on the grid; it was expected that the doctrine would help avoid such situations altogether.
- Strength: 118.5
- Deviation: 0.070 AU
- Time: 5.625 s
Comments on some modules:
- Nanofiber Internal Structure II – shaved 1 second off the align time
- Micro Auxiliary Power Core II – required for MWD
- Cargo Scanner II – used for container prioritisation
- Expanded Probe Launcher II – not specifically required for this doctrine and can be replaced with Core Probe Launcher II
- Small Low Friction Nozzle Joints II – does not improve align time beyond what is achieved by Nanofiber Internal Structure II (with my skills), and can be removed
Here are some detailed stats:
|Average value of extracted loot per system, ISK,
|– data site loot, ISK||3,600,000|
|– relic site loot, ISK||7,400,000|
|Average losses (ship and loot) per system, ISK||0|
|% of systems skipped or abandoned due to activity||38|
|Average number of relic sites looted per system||0.4|
|Average number of data sites looted per system||0.4|
|Number of ships lost||0|
|Number of attackers destroyed||0|
|Number of times I was dropped on||1|
Given no ships were lost, the main metric of doctrine’s success, average profit per visited system after losses, is the same as the value of the extracted loot – 11 million ISK. I don’t know how good or bad this figure is, since I don’t have anything to compare it with, which brings us to…
The Next Step
In order to find the best doctrine I need to try other ones and compare the results. Which one should I choose? Some of the approaches that come to mind are:
- Slippery Astero – relying on sub-2-second align time to avoid attackers when they appear on grid.
- Naive Heron – a starry-eyed explorer who believes everyone is a friend and relies on goodwill of other capsuleers and on SC reputation tank. Flees only when targeted.
- Stubborn Buzzard/Astero – a wilful prospector who after finding a vacant site will defend it with everything it has.
- Smart Buzzard – abandons the system only when a hunter ship appears on D-Scan – Astero, Stratios, T3 cruiser, ‘dictor…
Let me know which of these doctrines you would like me to test next, or propose another one, or even better – run your own experiment and report the results!
I have finished writing the forum post and asked Aura, “What do you think?”
“It sounds… a bit dry,” replied Aura, sceptically.
I chuckled, “Well, if an AI complains that my writing is dry, then it’s gotta be true. How do you propose to humidify it?”
“Hmm… It wasn’t just data gathering; we did have some adventures along the way. Why don’t you tell about them?”
I thought for a moment, “Yeah, there is a story or two to tell but they will take too much space and distract from the main purpose of my report. It won’t hurt though to provide references to my blog posts.”
I have added another paragraph and submitted it to the corp forums.
“What’s next?” asked Aura.
“You mean the doctrine? Let’s see what the corp mates reply and decide what we want to test next.”
“No, I mean, in general. What are we gonna do? Do you still plan to spend most of your space time inspecting caches?”
I noticed the ‘space’ qualifier and sighed, “There is quite a lot of desk work at the moment, but it also means that we need to make the most of our time when we undock. Let’s try something different. Did you mention Thera scanning?”