Plight of a small gang

•2013/03/19 • 2 Comments

Recently, because of my comments on the forums and Mord Fiddle’s blog, I was asked to post feedback for an idea about objectives for small gangs in the EVE Online Features & Ideas Discussion forum. So I did. And then I thought to myself: “What better way to get back into writing on my blog than the lazy cut and paste way?” And now I’m cross-posting a modified version of the forum message here on my blog.

I am a relatively minor member of a non-sovereignty holding alliance. We pride ourselves on being very good at shooting things in space and not caring about much else. Our general way of life in EVE is to fly small gangs with very competent pilots and engage other gangs. We will often up-engage against larger or heavier fleets. We do this because we believe in our pilots. We won’t turn down a gank — it still results in a killmail — but as a general rule we go out looking for a real fight because that’s what makes us better. I can count the number of times I have participated in a Rote Kapelle gate camp on one finger.

A fleet usually starts with the FC putting his head into the map to look for a bright spot that might mean a gang in space. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve seen other organizations work this way and so I don’t think it is unique to us.

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So it’s with this bias that I think about objectives for small gangs in space. What can be done to cause more clashes between competent gangs in space?

Well, what elements do we need to form a fight?

In my opinion, we need two non-allied gangs with temporal and spacial locality (they have to be in the same place at the same time) and both with a desire to fight.

There are gangs in space all the time, so finding two non-allied gangs in New Eden is not the problem. But bringing two of them together in the same space, at the same time and both with the desire to fight seems very difficult.

How can we make this easier?

Mechanics are probably relatively simple.

  • Put a gang in space with an objective that can best be achieved by combat-fit ships; it’s critical that the objective cannot be better accomplished with ships designed to fight traditional NPC encounters. Let’s call this fleet the objective fleet.
  • Broadcast the location and some approximation of the gang size on the map or through some other outlet.
  • Delay the reward until completion of the objective.
  • Provide a way for another fleet to deny the reward to the objective fleet or claim the reward for themselves. Let’s call this fleet the spoiler fleet.

But we’re not there yet. If the goal is for a fight [and not just another isk faucet] we need a reason for the objective fleet to stick around if contested — if they leave they haven’t lost anything except time. We could require the objective fleet to invest isk or some other valuable resource upfront. Or we could force them to stay on the field by cutting their warp drives off with a gigantic bubble they can’t escape until the objective is completed. I prefer an upfront investment.

We also have to figure out how to keep insanely large fleets spoiler fleets from going on a wild rumpus through New Eden taking every objective fleet‘s goodies. It seems reasonable to allow only a spoiler fleet of comparable weight to enter the objective and then shut the door — some sort of points system based on hull class could get us to this solution.

The mechanics all seem simple enough, but I’m finding it very tough to hang a story around them. I like being immersed in the story; that’s tough when there is none.

It’s worth mentioning that this would probably be a great set of mechanics for NPC null-sec or low-sec, but become less useful the deeper you go into capsuleer-sovereign space because of the security afforded by being so far off the beaten path.

If you can make this happen then more fleets are travelling through space. Either a fight occurs on the way or a fight occurs at the destination. More fights resulting in more exploding ships is an all-around good thing for New Eden. Aren’t exploding ships what it’s all about?

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Editor’s Note 1: Until 2 weeks ago I had been out of the game for about a year. I like what’s happened while I was gone. Except that there isn’t much fighting in sovereign null-sec anymore.

Editor’s Note 2: If you did not click on the link for Mord’s blog above, you should. He’s one of the best writers out there writing about EVE Online. But really, if you somehow got here and didn’t already know about Mord I’d be extremely surprised.

Editor’s Note 3: I know this is not a fully fleshed idea; it’s just a frame. I promise I’ll come back to it.

Changing skins

•2011/11/12 • 4 Comments

I was poking around on Singularity, the test server, when I noticed that many of the ships have been re-skinned. Some of the changes are dramatic, such as the Lachesis shown here.

The Lachesis finds itself in an entirely new wardrobe.

Others, such as the Crow pictured here are not so dramatic but definitely have more grit and less cartoon.

The Crow keeps its colors thought the markings changed.

I didn’t do extensive cataloging of the ships that had been changed, but here are a few before and after shots.

The Atron now bears a Gallente insignia.

Subtle changes to the Arazu give it a real, gritty feel.

The Keres sports a darker, more sinister look.

Sadly, some ships have lost exciting features — for example the Hawk lost it’s spinny bits, and we all know how important spinny bits are. But overall, things are looking great.

No more spinny bits!

I didn’t see any models that had drastically changed (at least not any that aren’t widely publicized), but the Ishkur’s thruster configuration and front bits have been altered.

Some bits around the Ishkur hull have changed.

The first of Four Deaths

•2011/09/29 • 6 Comments

Continuing the quest to break through my fear of engaging targets as a solo pilot, I spent part of last weekend roaming through Placid in Fjögur Dauðsföll (Four Deaths), my shiny new Tristan.

I didn’t have to travel far before I ran into a bright red, flashy Rifter on the Agoze gate in Ostingele. Taking advantage of the relative security offered me by the gate guns in this situation, I observed the ship to see what I could learn. I don’t do this often, because I don’t often need the information, but I thought it would give me a bit of information about this potential target. I noted the spinning barrels indicative of autocannons but nothing else useful.

The Rifter pilot, Thestarling, wasn’t doing much of anything and I assumed he was waiting for me to make the first move — so I obliged. I set up an orbit around him at my optimal range and engaged a warp scrambler, stasis webifier and all of my weaponry. I noted, with regret, that he wasn’t firing back — but I didn’t halt my onslaught. When the Rifter was at about 50% armor, he jumped.

I waited for my aggression timer to tick down and jumped after him, assuming he had decided I wasn’t worth fighting and moved on. When I arrived in Agoze he was still in system but not on the gate. I struck up a conversation in local scolding him for fleeing. I warped around the system looking for any sign of the Rifter, but was unable to locate it. So I parked myself on the Intaki gate and continued to chatter.

For a time I was joined on the gate by a Ishuk-Raata Enforcement Directive Taranis who orbited the gate with me. While we flew in lazy circles around the gate a few other I-RED pilots jumped back and forth patrolling for hostile targets. Knowing that I-RED follows the Not Red Don’t Shoot engagement policy, and that I had never initiated hostilities with them, I wasn’t too worried. I was hoping my friend in the Rifter would show up again. And he did.

When he showed up, though, he was at a tactical bookmark off the gate. It wasn’t worth burning up to him to engage, especially with the I-RED pilots likely willing to engage such a criminal. Eventually the Taranis chased him away and I decided I should get moving. I made a few more jumps and then circled back around to Agoze — when I arrived back in Agoze, all the I-RED pilots had left and Thestarling was still in system, so I struck up the conversation again.

I positioned myself at a station and let him know where I was. Eventually he arrived — but again he was far out of reach. So I headed toward him, slowly. He engaged his engines as well and we were both moving toward each other across the 140 km of empty space; though neither of us engaged our speed modules. I didn’t want him to be certain that I was afterburner fit, and I assume he was trying to keep his fitting a secret as well. So we moved slowly toward one another.

With all of the attention Rifters receive, I had doubts about my ability to win the fight and during the long flight out I pondered fleeing the scene. There wasn’t much he could do to stop me with the station guns on my side. But I stayed on intercept course anyway — running would have been a wasted opportunity; this time I was prepared to lose my ship in glorious single combat.

When the distance was less than 20 km I plotted a course for an orbit at what I considered optimal for my ship — about 8 km — which would give me some margin for error with my warp scrambler and stasis webifier and then I engaged my afterburner. And the Rifter was in range of my warp scrambler, I engaged all offensive systems. Very quickly the Rifter was into armor and I knew I was fighting an armor variant, but my Tristan soon dipped past shields as well. Both of our armor repair systems kicked in and I knew the fight wasn’t yet decided. I toggled the overload for all of my weapons, my afterburner and my small armor repairer and simply hoped — we were both fully committed to the engagement.

His hull finally buckled and the little Rifter exploded. I took a moment to note that flames were trailing from my Tristan yet its sturdy Gallente hull was still at 50%. I quickly scooped what remained of his modules and docked for repairs, thanking him in local for a good fight and my first real one-versus-one kill.

With this first solo victory under my belt, I headed for home and pondered how I had managed to pull it off. So when I arrived at my home port, I started analyzing the fight with all the tools at my disposal.

The initial conditions clearly favored me because his negative security status and the ominous station guns meant I could engage when I chose or simply warp off if I didn’t think I could get into a favorable position. With the early position established and both a stasis webifier and warp scrambler, I could ensure I stayed outside of his optimal range while well within my own. Though the Rifter is faster than the Tristan, the disparity isn’t enough for it to claw into a favorable position before being torn apart by railgun slugs and rockets.

An analysis with EFT showed that, under ideal conditions, the Rifter could outdamage my Tristan at less than ~3 km while it’s damage quickly faded past that range while my Tristan’s rockets and railguns could apply steady damage out to 8 km. Even if he had loaded Barrage the amount of damage would not have been sufficient to bring him a win. As long as I kept the Rifter between 3 and 8 km, a victory was the only possible outcome.

After a good fight and a bit of analysis, my confidence level is up and I’m ready to try it again. I just need to find another suitable target.

Space politics

•2011/09/13 • 7 Comments

I’m not much for politics, politicians and the laws they author. I’d much prefer a well-reasoned discussion with all interested parties culminating in an agreement we can all live with. Unfortunately that ideal is extremely difficult to realize. And so it is with CCP and their creation, New Eden.

With the growing realization that players were important to EVE and that they likely had very good ideas about the natural laws within the universe of New Eden, and knowing that conducting discussions on an individual level with every player was impractical, CCP set about establishing a body of advisers to represent the players. This body was created with the explicit goal of giving societal members (players) influence over how society is legislated (read: the order of the ones and zeros that make up New Eden’s laws as ordered by the developers). But this body neither empowered nor burdened with the task of legislation itself.

The goal of CCP is to provide EVE ’s individuals with societal governance rights. In similar fashion to a realworld democracy models, candidates will be selected by fellow peers to be the voice of their interests to the legislator. Once elected, the responsibility of these representatives will be to uphold the society’s views as best they can via direct contact and dialogue with CCP. Central to this concept is the idea that increasing the “utility” of eve’s society will encourage more individuals to join it. (The Council of Stellar Management: Implementation of Deliberative, Democratically Elected, Council in EVE, page 9)

Society, here, refers to all of New Eden’s residents, not simply those who PvP, those who hold sovereignty or those who vote. And from subsequent statements in this charter it is clear that CCP intended this body to represent all players.

The deliberative democracy is a hybrid governance solution which combines consensus decree with representative authority. In this system, every individual is considered equal and has the right to voice an opinion whose relevance carries just as much weight as every other voice in society. Since creating an authentic deliberative democracy is impossible due to the technical means through which EVE is supported, the proposed implementation of this concept will rest more upon representative individuals to steer a common voice. In this way, the consensus of deliberative minds and the open discourse of issues will be the primary vehicle of political change within society. (The Council of Stellar Management: Implementation of Deliberative, Democratically Elected, Council in EVE, page 12)

It is worth noting that the implementation did not match the ideal vision; technical implementation and the real world impeded the idyllic vision. But CCP trudged on secure that human thought and action would drive ever closer to their vision of a deliberative democracy even while the CSM was established as a representative democracy.

The key difference between a deliberative democracy and representative democracies is that Representatives do not rule on behalf of constituents. Instead, they act with the consensus of the entire constituency as they present collective interests to the legislator. Every citizen owes the others justification for the laws imposed upon society; in this way, the theory is “deliberative” because of the social cooperation required to bring issues to “lawful” conclusions before a governing assembly. (The Council of Stellar Management: Implementation of Deliberative, Democratically Elected, Council in EVE, page 13)

The ideas presented are sound when considered in an ideal world where elected representatives are public servants and not self-serving. Sadly, they break down when introduced into a human world — especially one where there are only virtual consequences. CCP attempted to consider the meta-gaming realities that could plague the process but fell far short in their forecast.

There is a metagaming component to the proposed implementation in EVE, particularly where it concerns voting. For example, each real-life individual can hold many game accounts, each of which has at least one virtual persona controlled by a single owner. Although this technically gives more weight to individuals with an external monetary advantage, the impact is negligible in the greater scale of participating voters. Furthermore, the possibility exists that constituents will be apathetic about their voting power, just as in real-world politics but being aware of that possibility is the most powerful weapon in countering it. (The Council of Stellar Management: Implementation of Deliberative, Democratically Elected, Council in EVE, page 14)

Several years later, the landscape looks completely different. The original intent and document are long forgotten. The CSM chair himself has declared that he is not responsible for the cares of the player base, but the cares of his constituents; the constituents that quite obviously have been told to vote and who to vote for. If the mandate is to do what the constituents ask, but you have told the constituents what to ask for, then the society as a whole is no longer served.

The CSM, whether knowingly or unwittingly, have pushed for greater and greater power and responsibility. Along the way they have gained a bevy of willing allies in the most vocal segments of the player base who have become disenchanted with CCP’s direction. What the minds behind many of these voices fail to realize (or fail to discuss) is that the average players are not among them and these voices are not representative of the whole player base. Now, having not quite the power they believe they deserve, the CSM are attempting to blackmail CCP with threats of bad publicity.

Reality is now further from the ideal than ever and there is only escalation on the horizon. While it’s easy to blame the institution, I like to think in more human terms and place the onus on the people. As Marc Scaurus phrases the problem, the current CSM membership has been fostering an attitude of us (the players) versus them (CCP) when instead it should be one society working for the common good.

Player apathy is the other end of the spectrum. Not apathy with regard to the game and its content, but apathy with regard to learning about or influencing legislators and their legislation. Though I write this as if the average player may read it, I know that in fact it is unlikely to be widely read. The readers are most likely other bloggers, forum dwellers or the odd space nerd that arrived here quite by mistake.

So if some players care too much, other players don’t care at all and some players haven’t even started playing yet, what is the way forward? How do we represent players who don’t care to be represented? That is why we pay CCP. The ultimate form of influence will always be with your wallet — but be prepared for the eventuality that you are the only player who voted that way.

Afterthought: I hadn’t written this as an entry for the blog banter — rather it was a foot note in response to Rixx Javix and Marc Scaurus. However, it is a direct hit on the topic put forth by Seismic Stan at Freebooted as he continues to push the blog banter forward. So, here is a list of the other participants as pulled from Stan’s current list.

Fat Man the first

•2011/09/05 • 2 Comments

Occasionally I have the urge to try solo combat. Usually I fit up a ship or two and stage them in low-security space. Then I parade around for a while hoping an obvious target presents itself or a vicious pirate will shoot at me. And normally I get so bored that I give up a few days later. The boredom isn’t because there aren’t people to shoot in low-security space (there generally are). Rather it’s because I’m too risk averse in a one-versus-unknown situation that I don’t engage.

There, I said it. I’m risk averse. I’ve tried to break myself of this time and again. It’s not that I’m unwilling to lose ships; I fly interdictors, heavy assault cruisers and recon ships with small gangs all the time — and every time a pod pilot goes looking for combat it’s best to be aware that it’s a risky business. But there is something about groups that inspires more confidence than being alone. I don’t trust myself solo.

I consider myself good at small gang combat. I know what to do. I know when the gang is likely to win and how to help bring about victory conditions. So when there are three or more of us, I’m willing to risk more. I also have a lot of faith in the pilots that fly with me and that inspires more confidence.

So now that I’ve established that, while I’m confident in group combat, I’m chicken to engage anything solo we can get back to the story. A few days ago I was reading blogs, enjoying all the solo player-versus-player tales, and decided to give it a go … again. I know a bit more about ship combat than the last time I set out to do this and found all of my existing fittings lacking. I went back to the Eve Fitting Tool and set out to design a few fits to stage in Placid.

I can fly any frigate in the game so the first problem I encountered was choosing a hull. I decided to go with tech 1 frigates because they are cheap. I’m not especially poor, but if I’m going to get over being risk averse, I might as well start modestly. Rifters are quite overdone as I see them everywhere so I wanted to avoid them. Friends have suggested I give the Incursus a try, but I can never settle on a good fit. The punisher seems popular, but I’ve never been a fan of fitting a ship and not using its bonus — which is what all the advice around the Punisher seems to be.

After considering nearly every frigate, I settled on the Tristan and Merlin. Both of these ships suffer from split weapon systems, but they have decent slot layout. Most importantly for me, both are favorites from my early days in New Eden. With a little effort, I soon had two different Tristan fits and a Merlin fit. I resolved to fit two of each and find out which I like best.

Because I’m extremely cheap, I’m building my own rigs and ship components where possible — which is probably silly because the market cost for my first fit was only ~7 million isk. This led to a situation where only my very close range (blaster fit) Tristan was ready to fly. So I was out in my Tristan looking for targets larger than me; sadly, something small found me first.

I was engaging a couple of battlecruiser rats (die Serpentis criminals) when two Hawks appeared on scan. One hawk outmatches just about any T1 frigate setup that I’m aware of, but two was a completely illogical fight. I kept up my engagement roughly 15 km from the asteroid belt beacon until a Hawk landed on grid with me — then I promptly warped to the nearest station.

I hung around outside the station and started up a chat in local with the pilot (Quake590) though it seemed any chance of action had passed.

Quake590 > why’d you run?
Pian Shu > Well, 2 Hawks against a Tristan isn’t much of a fair fight.
Quake590 > well… it would’ve been one hawk
Quake590 > the other one wouldn’t have been able to come in on time 😛
Pian Shu > 2 popped up on scan at the same time, so you can’t blame me for worrying.
Quake590 > hehe
Pian Shu > even one Hawk against a Tristan isn’t much of a fair fight. Think I ought to at least kill something with it before I lose it.
Quake590 > hehe
Quake590 > still worth a shot 😛
Pian Shu > Well You can shoot first under the guns if you fancy your chances 😉
Quake590 > get 2kms from the station… I like a challenge

At this point I hemmed and hawed for a moment as I didn’t think he would actually engage while I was simultaneously afraid that he would engage and I would somehow lose. So I didn’t leave the docking range. After a moment I figured that it was worth a shot because I didn’t actually have much to lose. I was playing on a character that isn’t in my alliance and so nobody could laugh at me on the killboard. It was a cheap ship. I had station guns on my side.

So I directed my ship to orbit his. While I was orbiting, I noted that he started pulling range from the station — I assumed this was to draw me away.  So I let myself be drawn away in what I hoped looked like a rookie mistake. When I was a few kilometers from the station, he engaged with a warp scrambler, stasis webifier and rockets. I quickly applied a warp scrambler and stasis webifier followed by rockets and blasters and I approached him directly — not much point in letting him get out of blaster range if I could help it.

Initially, it looked as if he was going to terminate my brand new ship and warp off. Then I remembered that the Tristan’s real tank was armor and hull and stopped panicking. I had remembered to engage my damage control unit which drastically improves the tank on a Gallente frigate. My ship entered hull before his shields were fully stripped, but I gratefully noted that he wasn’t using a shield booster. From there it was a race through his flimsy armor and hull with the help of the station guns.

I still expected to fall before his Hawk, but when I saw a bright flash and a neutral pod floating in space beside me I was elated. A second later my beautiful, cheap Tristan was engulfed in a fiery explosion as his last wave of rockets found its target.

So ended my first “solo” experience; after the fact, he pointed out that it wasn’t actually a solo experience as the sentry guns had done most of the work. I’m going to count it based on the fact that I have no confidence in sentry guns. Clearly my little ship was outmatched, so I am fairly happy with the draw even if I made several rookie mistakes. I hesitated slightly when he engaged me, one second probably cost my ship in this race. I didn’t make any use of overheating — I could have overheated everything and been fine for the short engagement. And I didn’t launch my lonely drone. Making the correct actions in any of those cases would probably have allowed my Tristan to see it’s way through the battle.

But, I lost my first Tristan. I’m a step closer to kicking my risk aversion problem. Three Tristans and two Merlins left.

A condemnation of character

•2011/08/25 • 4 Comments

Disclaimer: Just so nobody freaks out, I do not think that Rixx Javix, Logan Fyreite or any other player is a “bad person” in the real world just because they may play an amoral bastard capsuleer in game. That would be silly.

Rixx Javix (the player) hit upon an interesting issue when he published a blog post regarding the criminality of Rixx Javix (the pod pilot). The view was quickly rebutted by Logan Fyreite (the player and pod pilot) on his blog. And then countered by Rixx (the pod pilot).

Whether or not Rixx Javix (the pod pilot) is a criminal is unimportant to paritybit (the pod pilot). Clearly Rixx’s actions place him amongst the enemies of humanity. He believes himself above human morality. Many pod pilots believe human values no longer apply because they have capability far beyond ‘normal’ humans. The truth value here is subjective.

Rixx has no regard for human life. He has no regard for the property of others. He cares only for destruction; that destruction causes loss of both life and property. He has no purpose higher than the birth -> death -> re-birth cycle and somehow sees this as outside the realm of human influence.

He is wrong. Without humanity’s technology, he would never have ascended to pod pilot. Without human hands and human-built machinery, he would have no fresh body to wake up in when another capsuleer extinguishes the spark from his current body with a flare of autocannon fire. Without human station dwellers supporting the station services he would have no repairs available when he recklessly allows his heavy interdictor to sit under station guns for too long while the crew inside fights for their very survival.

His mental instability is quite probably the fault of the empire that spawned him and gave him the ability to use a hydrostatic capsule. Perhaps some fault lies with CONCORD who fails to extend its reach to halt his deadly joy ride. Perhaps the amoral corporations that accept his ISK in return for clone services are to blame for his continued existence. But no matter what created or perpetuated his existence, the fact remains that he is a sociopath — caring only for himself and his chosen companions and caring not for the bulk of humanity.

Perhaps paritybit is no better. But at least paritybit understands that when he violates human morality it is to serve the cause of humanity. The empires, the criminals, the opportunists, they all must fall for humanity to thrive – sometimes this is at the expense of human life.

Public Service Announcement: Medical Clone

•2011/08/08 • Leave a Comment

I logged in Saturday night to see one of my corpmates heading out on a short roam in a Federation Navy Comet. I quickly joined him with a Taranis and a third member joined up with an Imperial Navy Slicer. The three of us headed down to a small dead-end cluster of stars behind 35-RK9 as a single point of entry or exit.

We bypassed a small battlecruiser and recon gang as we entered the cluster even though we knew it was likely they would stay around to camp us in. Two of us groped around fruitlessly for targets in the cluster while the third kept eyes on the gang in XS-XAY — primarily because he separated from us during our manuevers. During that time the gang had grown and now included a Rapier and a Flycatcher (which was of particular concern). As we lingered, the gang moved out of XS-XAY and our third member joined us in the hunt for targets.

When we were ready to leave, we assumed the gang was still waiting for us. Since I was in the least expensive ship, my ‘friends’ elected me to scout us out of the cluster — meaning I would hit any potential remnant of the camp first. As I was in a Taranis, I figured it was no big deal — if I hit the camp I would just re-approach the gate and get out of danger. The camp had doubled in size by this point and it didn’t quite work that way. I’m guessing somebody was remote sensor boosting the Hurricane pilot because none of the other ships appeared on that mail though there was a Dramiel, Malediction and Flycatcher on my pod loss mail.

They blew up my ship and squished my pod — which brings me to the point of the story: I woke up in a clone in Y-DW5K, Curse. I am very careful to never let my clone get out of date for skill points but I seem to have forgotten to put it somewhere convenient after our last trip to Curse. So now I was stuck smack in the middle of Curse; 14 jumps from Sendaya (through Heaven which is usually the most violent constellation of Curse) or 16 jumps from Keberz (going through HED-GP, which has been topping Dotlan’s most violent null-sec systems lately). And all I had in my possession is an Impairor; a spawned Impairor fits no speed module. Alternatively, I could pay to move my medical clone somewhere convenient and self destruct my pod to get there almost instantly. Great set of choices.
Clones with a few years worth of skill points start to get pretty spendy and I’m cheap. So I figured I’d at least try to get the clone out. In the worst case I would just wake up in a new clone near home where I had just moved it. I picked Sendaya because the route is a couple jumps shorter. Immediately upon undocking a fine gentleman relieved me of my Impairor.

I figured I didn’t have much chance without any kind of shell around my pod, but I resolved to give it a try. I have a variety of tactical bookmarks throughout Curse, though the collection is far from complete. I only landed in a bubble once — it took me a full minute to ‘burn’ to the gate with a dozen neutrals in system. I passed a couple of Hurricane’s in another system. And in a third system I landed on gate from a tactical while two pursuing Claws landed in a pull bubble.

I made it out to Sendaya and only had 34 more jumps until I was back home.

The moral of the story is that if you’re undocking, don’t forget to check both that you have the right level of clone and that your clone is somewhere you would want to wake up after your old body meets cold, hard vacuum.