What to do about AFK cloakies?

Picture the scene:

You’ve spent a couple of months taking a system, building up its military index to 5, shipped and installed upgrades to your infrastructure hub, and are now ready to take advantage and finally make back your ISK. What’s that? A red has appeared in system.

You dash over to the gate, pinging the D-scan for all its worth. Nothing.

You check the next system. Still nothing. The red is still there when you jump back.

You get back to your safe POS and sit. Waiting for it the red to leave. You’re tempted to risk it. There’s only one red in system, and a few corp mates. Then again, the red is from an alliance that is known to hotdrop ratters. Is it worth the risk. You decide to bait them.

A solo ship starts ratting. It runs the belts. It clears a couple of anomaly sites. No sign of the hostile ship. You log out and come back later … The red is still there. You wait for downtime and log straight in and head for the gate. Within a few minutes the red returns. No gate fire, nothing on scan. Its cloaked and staying there.

This is probably familiar to anyone in a sov holding alliance. The question is what can you do about it?

The only chance you really have is to bubble the in-gate and sit on it with a number of fast ships and pop anything you can. If you miss them at this point, which given that you aren’t going to get many volunteers to sit on a gate waiting for incoming cov ops ships, is pretty likely, there is nothing you can do. Once in system the afk cloaky has you at their mercy.

You can only really rat, or do sites, if you’ve sufficient firepower to insta-pop it and escape before any fleet can get through the lit cyno field and gank you. The fear of a single cov ops pilot stops you exploiting the system resources. What’s the point of taking your ship out of the POS shields if you could spend an hour collecting ISK only to see it all lost when you are jumped.

This has to impact people being able to make the most of the Dominion changes. They definitately impact the null-sec population density. At first look it does seem contrary to CCP’s objectives for nullsec. I don’t think it made their list of things to look at though. What could they do?

I’ve seen suggestions to make cloaks have a duration, rather than being infinite. It would be a simple change, a tweak to the cloak modules. I’m not sure it would serve the purpose on it’s own though. If people can automate ratting and mining, it would be fairly simple to automate toggling the cloak back on. You could add fuel, similar to how a cyno operates. Operating the cloak could consume X amount of some ice or PI product to keep it running. That would sort of work, ships couldn’t stay in 23.5/7 without needing to re-supply. It would improve the chance of catching them.

The other proposal I’ve seen is the exhaust gasses one. This is a Star Trek influence. The ship might be invisible to normal detection, but some energy has to escape. If some escapes then it can be detected. At this point you’ve a whole bunch of things open to you. Is it a special probe type. Very short range, and the signature from the cloaky should be very small. This would allow the cloaky to move to get away from the probes, only penalising the genuine afk cloaky. The probes would get you in the area then it would be the normal orbit with probes out to try and get a de-cloak. Not perfect, but better than at present.

I guess the final thing would be some sort of security improvement that affects cloaks. It would have to require considerable development, and cost a bit to run, but in return allow cloaks to be disabled in the system. Perhaps this could just aid the above probe solution, or affect duration, or fuel usage, from the earlier first option.

Of course we could just leave things as they are and allow an afk alt to stop people playing.

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4 Responses to “What to do about AFK cloakies?”

  1. It’s been a while since I spent much time ratting or killing NPCs in null-sec so maybe I’m not qualified to talk to this point, but space is a dangerous place.

    I think your logic worked out that the problem isn’t really an AFK cloaking player. The problem is the threat of a Titan or Black Ops bridge. There has been some talk of a spool-up time for the cyno, which might do some good there.

    But in general, in null-sec, you kind of have to expect that you are going to get blown up every time you undock — so you don’t rat in pimped out ships and you don’t do it when there’s nobody around to back you up if you get into trouble.

    I am an advocate of removing local entirely which would kind of eliminate the point of keeping an alt in space all the time. It wouldn’t make you any safer, but it would change the fear dynamics.

    To make a long story short, I think covert ops cloaks are working as intended. I would like the non-covert versions to change so that you can’t indefinitely hide a Titan or other combat ship.

    • Prior to Dominion I’d agree with you. The problem is that post Dominion you have the ability to improve your systems. This is an increased level of investment on your part. Its possible for people to find out by how much you’ve improved the system, and work out its worth to you. Its disproportionate effort on their part to park an ask cloaky alt in the system 23.5/7.

      In order to foster the increased numbers of players living in 0.0 that CCP wants they need to give the players that have invested in the systems a means of countering the afk cloaky.

      Note that I’m not opposed to people using cov ops to scout systems looking for targets. Its the sticking the alt in from downtime to downtime with no intention of doing anything but annoying the residents. Being a sensible 0.0 dweller you are cautious and don’t run anomalies or belts with a red in local.

      Yes, fear does play a part, but its not a question of ratting in pimped out ships. A ratting drake can cost a little over 60 mil ISK. It would take a couple of hours or so to earn that running Havens.

  2. As paritybit mentioned, I think the real issue here is insta cynos. People run anoms in Wormholes all the time, and don’t have the advantage of knowing there is a hostile in system. They just have to assume there is, even when the system is actually empty.

    It works fine for Wormhole space because there is no hot drop waiting for you on the other end. There is risk, but the greater the number of hostiles, the more complex the ambush is to set up.

    So run your anoms in a cyno jammed system, or hope that CCP introduces a spool up delay etc to cynos. The problem isn’t the cloaks…

    • Wormholes are quite different beasts. There is no point in planting an afk cloaky ship in there.

      I’m not against cov-ops ships warping cloaked. That’s working as intended.

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