Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Ain't Givin' You No Tree-Fitty: Intro to AFK Cloakers

In a previous blog, The Little Noctis That Could, I touched on the subject of AFK Cloakers.  This is a subject that is every pilot in Null Sec is familiar with in one way or another.  Any pilot that has been in a particular area of space for any extended period time has been on the receiving end of the services of an AFK Cloaker.  Most experienced pilots with an alt, and even some without, have had the pleasure of being on the giving end. 

In this particular installment of the I Ain’t Givin’ You No Tree-Fitty Series, I’m going to discuss AFK Cloakers, Methods of Operation and Solutions which will be presenting in three different blog posts.  I might even throw in some more stories if I catch wind of something interesting.  Now this isn’t suppose to be an end all be all definitive report.  I’m not anyway near BOV status to rightful write those.  However, this blog will be an overview on the topic, a collection of my thoughts on the subject and should anyone leave comment it might even turn into a discussion.  Now before we get in to the heavy stuff, I’d like to lead off with a little humor.

AFK Cloakers are Literally The Herps
No.  I really mean it.  Follow me here.  One day you're minding your own business say scanning down sigs, mining or whatever gets you off.  You're having a good time and everything is going well.  Then all of a sudden, out from nowhere, they appear in local.  You don’t know where they came from.  You don't know how they got there.  To top it all off, it doesn't look like they're leaving and you’re stuck dealing with something you didn’t want in the first place. 

So you go back to your pals.  You ask a couple of hypotheticals.  They respond with how they really aren't qualified to answer, but personally they wouldn't screw around with that sort of thing.  Push comes to shove and you decided to wait it out a little bit putting you in a very comfortable situation. 

Then all of a sudden one day they're gone; poof just like it's freaking magic.  You figure you're in the clear and go back to doing what it you usually do.  Everyone’s having a good time again.  Everything's going well and you're enjoying yourself.  Then right in the middle of something really good... guess who decides to come rearing their fugly little head?

What is an AFK Cloaker?
The simplest definition that I can come up with is this: An AFK Cloaker is a pilot that enters in to a hostile system and stays cloaked up in space for an indefinite period of time in an effort to grief the system inhabitants.

As a whole, I consider AFK Cloakers to be a subset of the Exploration Profession.  While their main tactic and purpose are all the same, some employ different methods to ‘handle their business.’  When it comes to AFK Cloakers I’ve seen Nuisance Cloakers, Hot Drop Cloakers and Bait Cloakers.  There might be others out there, but these are the ones that appear prevalent.

Purpose in Flight
The AFK Cloaker’s purpose is to disrupt the activity in the enemy pocket while observing the activity of the hostiles and creating potential kill mails.  It is important to note that the order of goals. 
Primary: Disrupt activity
Secondary: Observe Enemy Activity
Tertiary: Potential Kills

Most tend to set their base of operations in heavily populated systems that boast a great deal of industrial activity.  It’s pretty easy for them to pick their targets using tools like DOTLAN.  They’ll find their target and research which systems are owned by the target.  Review the number of jumps in system and cross references that with statics for rat kills and mining levels.  Then volia, you can reasonably ascertain the best systems to set up shop.  Setting up in locations like these makes achieving the primary goal incredibly easy for the first few days.  Those inhabiting the system with instantly safe up or dock once they have intel of the hostile coming to the system or once they see the hostile in system with them. 

Once the AFK Cloaker is in system, they are easily able to observe the activity of the system inhabitants.  Most AFK Cloakers use either a T2 or T3 cloaking ship which enables them to warp freely with their cloaks on at all times.  Most will use their time to watch stations and gates and collect intel on POS’s.  They also have the means to gather intel on the system inhabitants activities like; typical roams/op deployment times and who flys what kinds of ships.

After a few days of being continually logged in system, human nature will start to take effect.  The system’s inhabitants will become complacent which is the WORSE thing anyone could do when dealing with an AFK Cloaker.  You’ll see or hear people in corp/alliance comms saying the AFK Cloaker hasn’t been active (but how do they really know since they’re cloaked?) or ‘they’re never on at this time because that player is so-and-so time zone or a plethora of other piss poor excuses why it’s okay to carry on as if it’s business as usual.  Right around this time someone will inevitably get hot dropped/caught in a belt/caught in an anomaly/ [insert other terrible reason to loose ship here]. 

Once a pilot (and those that rush out to help them only to be slaughtered like sausage sliding into a grinder) goes down to the AFK Cloaker, complacency will be replaced with vigilance.  At this point it becomes a wash, rinse and repeat cycle.  The only way the cycle usually ends is if someone mounts an actual offense against the AFK Cloaker to forcibly remove them from system or they just get bored and leave on their on accord.  The system inhabitants will regain solace and activity will pick up… until the next AFK Cloaker comes.

Features Working as Intended
Now there are some that feel this type of game play is unfair or unbalanced.  Like this pilot. Really it’s not.  All pilots have access to cloaking technology.  If a pilot trains the correct skills, anyone in game can have an account with AFK Cloaking ability.  There’s also the fact that cloaks are the solution to dealing with probes, so taking away cloaks would actually cause more imbalance.  There are also ways to combat AFK Cloakers, it just takes a lot of planning, hard work and effort.  These things make AFK Cloaking a viable play style option within Eve Online game mechanics.  If you don’t like it, you’ll probably have to leave Null Sec to get away from it as Null Sec was never meant to be 100% safe.

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