Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Bookmarks and You
Continuing on our theme of PVP tools, I'd like to spend some time talking about bookmarks.
Bookmarks are incredibly useful, especially in hostile space such as 0.0 or lowsec. With them, you're about to quickly reach positions that without bookmarks it could be very difficult to reach safely. In this article, I'll discuss some of the common types of bookmarks, how to create and how to use them, as well as some thoughts on naming and organising your bookmarks.
Tactical Bookmarks (or tacs) are bookmarks close to particular gates, stations or celestials used for observation or navigation. You can divide tacs into two categories - on-grid tacs, and off-grid tacs.
On-Grid tactical bookmarks are probably the most useful type of bookmark you can create. When moving to a new region of nullsec, I'll generally try to make at least one on-grid Tac for each gate in that region fairly early on.
The main use of on-grid bookmarks is so that you can observe a gate or station visually before warping to it - this allows you to check for warp bubbles, hostile gatecamps, etc. These bookmarks also serve as convenient 'bounce' points, allowing you to warp to them and down to the gate to avoid anchored bubbles or to quickly reach gate again as an alternative to reapproaching in a slow ship. When you have a few of them, on-grid tacs can also be useful for positioning, helping you get close to a sniper or evade a chasing interceptor.
Let me make it clear, tacs are NOT safe. You can be probed down in a matter of seconds, and a fast (or cloaked ship) can easily fly out to you. When using a tac in a hostile system, try to keep moving (ideally aligned to an object for an easy warp-out) and don't hang around for too long if you can help it. In systems you visit a lot, try to have multiple tacs around each gate, since they will easily be compromised - if you use the same tac every time, don't be surprised if after a time you find someone waiting there for you!
The good news is that tacs are very easy to create. Some people like to do them afk in a cloaky ship, but the method I'd recommend is to take something nice and fast (a vigil is perfect for those on a budget) and power away from your chosen celestial in a random direction. In general, you should try to set these bookmarks up about 250km off the gate or station you want to observe. Bookmark mechanics tend to be a little strange, and even though the minimum distance to warp to an object is (as we know) 150km, I've had bookmarks as far as 200km away refuse to let me warp to them after coming through a gate. Try to avoid creating tacs which are aligned directly towards or away from other celestials, since these will be easier to compromise and (in 0.0) can lead you straight into a drag bubble. Most people tend to make their tacs almost directly upwards - with that in mind I'd recommend you set yours somewhere OTHER THAN directly upwards, unless the purpose of the tac is to try to catch others (in which case upwards is a good direction to start)!
Off-Grid tactical bookmarks are very similar to their on-grid counterparts, except as the name suggests they are off-grid. Their purpose is very similar, except since they aren't on grid you'll need to observe with your directional scanner instead. Since you're in no danger of ending up inside minimum warp range of your destination, you can also stay aligned at an off-grid tac for some time (assuming there are no hostiles attempting to probe you down), which makes them good for holding a fleet out of harm's way in preparation for warping down to a gate or station. Because of the distanced involved, a warp down from a tac when you're already aligned will take very little time at all.
The advantage of off-grid tacs is that they don't put you on grid with your opponent. This means you're much less likely to be noticed, and in a heavier ship you're able to land and warp off again without having to worry about fast ships burning out to you. This is also the main disadvantage of course, since by not being on grid you're not able to determine the exact position of your opponents, or match ship names to pilots.
Off-grid tacs still aren't safe. It's harder to fly out to you manually, but probers can still get a hit on your in a matter of seconds. The difference is they won't immediately assume you're at a tac - when they see you on scan, most people will assume at least for the first ten seconds or so that you're just in warp their gate. This gives you time to land at your tac, scan, and then warp off again if you need to before you're in any real danger.
You can make off-grid tacs in the same way you create on-grid tacs by simply flying for longer. You'll need to go at least 500km from the gate to ensure you're off grid, ideally over 1000km (did I mention grids like to change size dramatically)? This takes some time in an interceptor, so unless you frequent the system you don't really need to do this more than once per gate. The other way to create off-grid tacs is to warp to an object and create a bookmark shortly before landing (although unless you warp in from an unaligned safespottac that may not be suitable for evading warp bubbles. A third method is to simply log off and back on close to your chosen celestial, and use your ships 1m km emergency warp to provide the location for your unaligned bookmark. Either method works, although I'd recommend keeping your tacs fairly close to the gate if possible to minimise the time it will take you to warp down if needs be.
Midsafes are the easiest type of bookmark to make, but are of limited use. Midsafes are created by simply warping between two fairly distant celestials, and dropping a bookmark somewhere between the two - ideally as far as possible from any other celestial.
Midsafes work well as very temporary safespots. It's very possible for multiple people to have the same midsafe, and people warping between your two celestials will often pass right through your grid when they do so, making your location fairly obvious. Otherwise, it's not too difficult to determine where someone has set up their midsafe and drop another close to it - I've seen an unprobeable t3 command ship caught and killed in this fashion. The point I'm trying to make is, midsafes are really not that safe at all, and you should avoid using them for anything more than a temporary hiding spot until you can set up a proper unaligned safespot.
Creating midsafes can be done in just about anything, although it's actually easier to get a good one if you use something without a particularly high warp speed (i.e. avoid interceptors and covert ops frigs). The reason for this is that these ships will cover the fastest section of the warp (that is, the middle bit) in 9 or 12 au chunks instead of 6 or 3, which can make getting a bookmark right in the middile of a 20 or 30 au warp pretty difficult. One trick that can be quite helpful when setting up midsafes is to open your map browser before warping, and watch the indicator for your ship's position (make sure you click to create the bookmark a second or so in advance though, to take into account lag and the server's ticker time). This also lets you immediately see the location of your bookmark in space, so you can easily assess whether you've been successful or not.
Safespots are in effect, unaligned midsafes. You can create them either by warping between a midsafe and a third celestial, or two midsafes. The further out of alignment your safespot is from all celestials, the better.
In terms of distance, a safespot further than 14.3au (i.e. maximum directional scanner range) from any celestial is much more valuable than one which is not, although the further the better. This is especially important when it comes to gates, stations and any planets with a regularly used POS. Sit on scan from one of these, and it's often only a matter of time before someone decides to try to scan you down.
And on that note, hopefully I don't need to add - safespots are, despite their name, NOT safe, they're just safer! Moving aligned at a nice deep safespot is probably the safest you'll be anywhere in space other than docked or at a friendly POS, but unless you're cloaked or unprobeable you can still be scanned down by someone with the patience and motivation to do so. You've been warned!
Docks and Undocks
Dock and Undock bookmarks are very useful for any system with a station that you frequent.
You'll probably have noticed that sometimes you warp to a station and land outside docking range, your ship flying towards it for a few seconds before finally docking. This isn't something you want to happen with hostiles around, especially in a slow or fragile ship. A dock bookmarks let's you avoid this problem - this is simply a bookmark you know to be well inside docking range of the station but ideally not up against the station structure to avoid bouncing or getting stuck when you come out of warp. Just above or below the station tend to work very well, just make sure your overview is showing 0m to the station and allow for a few km variance in either direction.
Undock bookmarks are a little more complicated. When you undock from a station, you come out anything within 5 degrees of the 'straight out' direction, and travelling well above your maximum speed. For those of you familiar with warping mechanics, you'll remember that 5 degrees is the maximum angle you can be heading from your destination to get into warp. This means if we can create a bookmark directly down that 'straight out' alignment, you should be able to warp to it instantly after undocking from the station, evading any gatecamp that happens to be on the undock (assuming they have no bubbles of course). Just don't sit there for too long - there's only one direction you can create an undock, and you should expect most people in system to have one!
The good news is that most stations (but not all) are set up around the compass points that show up if you turn on your tactical overlay (you know that button just to the left of your capacitor, along with the directional scanner et al.) The best way to create these is to undock in a fast ship, turn on your tactical overlay, and burn right down the centre of the row of numbers you'll see in front of you. Some stations are a little tricker - some have a 'straight out' direction slightly above the vertical, and some amarr stations will send you out directly downwards (these are actually quite easy - the tactical overlay will show a dot directly beneath the station!), while some will be completely off-kilter and will require some trial and error.
When making undock bookmarks, always try to create them off-grid, and ideally make a few at different ranges to avoid being too predictable. When in nullsec you'll still need to think about bubbles, but in hisec or lowsec these can make you pretty much uncatchable, even in a freighter (until they probe you down at your undock that is! Did I mention not to sit there for very long?)
Flyby tacticals (also known as bombing tacs) take some time to set up, but are very nice to have for systems you live in or which are often gatecamped.
The key component of these bookmarks is a pair of off-grid tacs, exactly opposite sides of your chosen stargate such that you can warp to the gate from one of them, and already be aligned straight towards the other. The second (optional) component is a string of bookmarks at different distances from the gate in each direction - up, down, left, right etc.
The way you use these bookmarks is fairly simple - warp to one of your off-grid tacs (we'll call this your 'alpha' point) and align to the gate. You can then warp to a covert ops, a scan probe result, or one of your directional bookmarks and engage your opponent on the gate, while immediately aligning to your other tac (your 'beta' point) ready for a quick warp-out.
These bookmarks are excellent for sniping gangs such as destroyers or HACs, and allow you to harass or even dismantle hostile gatecamps with ease. They can also be used very effectively by bombers for coordinated bombing runs; warp in from your alpha point to a scan result at 30km, launch bombs, and warp out to your beta tac.
Bookmark Naming Conventions
Having these bookmarks is all well and good, but for them to be effective you need to be able to find the right one quickly when you need it. To do this, most people use a naming convention to identify their different bookmarks. You'll find a lot of different versions, but most will contain the same basic information, laid out in a format that's easily recognisable to you. In this section I'll talk about the convention I use - you're welcome to copy it, modify it, or use something different entirely.
This convention is designed around the right click menu, since when you have as many bookmarks as I do this is the fastest and easiest way to find the one you want. It's designed so that different bookmarks are visually different, but also so that they sort into a logical order, while keeping names as short as possible to avoid clipping. All alignments are relative to the sun (i.e. left means if you warp to your tac from the sun, you'll be on the left of the object).
On Grid Tacs
g> 6NJ U @250
Stargate to 6NJ, aligned upwards, at 250km. I generally only use the first three letters of the system name since this is usually enough to identify it unless there are multiple similar stargates in a single system (Placid lowsec, I'm looking at you!). The letter at the front is designed for sorting, and quick identification (g for gate, duh!) - it's rare I'll use one for another type of object, but I'll usually just give them another letter that isn't already in use, e.g. p for POSes. Alignment is just vague, but when there's hostiles on a gate I like to know which is my tacs will take me close to them, and which won't.
s> [ISB] L @300
Intaki Syndicate Bureau station, aligned left, at 300km. s is used instead of g for stations so they sort to the bottom since I use on-grid gate tacs a lot more and like them at the top. Where multiple stations have the same or similar names, or I think the location is important, I'll include the planet/moon in the station name e.g. [3-7-ISB]. For outposts (since these can only be one per system) I'll just use [OP] or [p4] etc. for the planet the outpost is anchored at.
Off Grid Tacs
t> 6NJ @1k
Stargate to 6NJ at roughly 1000km. t is used to differentiate from regular on-grid tacs (both gates and stations use t since it's less important to know the difference for these), although the distance is also an indication. Alignment isn't really important, although if the off-grid tac is aligned to a celestial I'll usually add an % to indicate this so I know not to use it for evading bubbles.
m> BV- Y-4 @7au
Midsafe between the BV- gate and the Y-4 gate, about 7au from the nearer of the two sides (I'll to to always put the nearer side first, but it's not too important - the distance gives a vague indication of how safe it is and whether it might be useful for directional scanning).
z> p5 @24au
Safespot roughly 24au from the closest celstial, in this case planet 4. z automatically sorts to the bottom, and no other information is needed. If you have multiple safes at similar distances you may want to number them to help when cycling between safespots.
d> [ISB] <<
Dock bookmark for Intaki Syndicate Bureau - these don't require any additional information, just to be obvious.
u> [ISB] >> @2k
Undock bookmark for Intaki Syndicate Bureau at roughly 2000km - again doesn't require much information but needs to be really obvious so you can find it under pressure - the >> is designed to alleviate this.
x> BV- ALPHA @2k
x> BV- BETA @2k
Pair of alpha/beta points for the BV- gate. Naming is designed to be very clear, and can be used for voice comms ("Squad one use ALPHA, Squad two use BETA" etc). The distance isn't really important, but can be useful when using your flyby points as tacs. If you have multiple alpha/beta points for the same celestial (which can be useful when using multiple bomber wings) I recommend using a different phonetic combination for the second set to avoid confusion (e.g. X-RAY and YANKEE).
When you move around as much as I do, it can be very easy to end up with thousands of bookmarks. When you get to that stage, just having a naming convention doesn't cut it, and you'll generally need to use folders too. These also apply to sorting in the right-click menu, which can be quite useful.
I'll generally split my bookmarks into folders for Safes, On-Grid, Off-Grid, Dock/Undock, Mids/temporary BMs, one for specialist bookmarks like flybys etc. and one for shared corp bookmarks and those I use for classes. I also have one 'misc' folder that I just drop bookmarks into when I'm in a hurry for sorting later. Again, make sure your folders are easy to identify visually and sort into an order that makes sense to you. I generally have mine sorted in the order I've listed them, with each folder preceded by a number to keep them in order.
Finally, a note on sharing bookmarks. Some people can be a little bit paranoid about sharing their bookmarks, and I guess they have good reason. I prefer to be slightly relaxed about it, especially since I run classes when I can't really help but share bookmarks with my students. It's important to know the dangers though, and I like to keep any shared bookmarks in a separate folder - any bookmarks you regularly share, especially ones shared among your whole corp, shouldn't be the same ones you use on a day to day basis. Even if you trust the people you've shared them with, that doesn't mean they haven't been scanned down or had the bookmark compromised.
And remember - you can never have too many bookmarks! Until you lag out the Eve server. Then maybe you have too many bookmarks.
Until next time!
The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.
All original content on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Click the icon below for more information.