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Posts : 486
Join date : 2010-05-18
Age : 209
Location : In the middle of everywhere

PostSubject: SCOUTING   Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:25 pm

Knowledge is Power. ~ Francis Bacon, 1597

An expanded knowledge of the systems, regions, and galaxies of the universe is vital. New empires searching for that first astro to colonize, as well as advanced empires searching for potential targets or impending threats will require a great deal of information. This guide will discuss some effective ways to discover what lies beyond. Experienced players should skip the first section.

Early Scouting: Prospecting for Astros
First Steps

The first task of an early empire is scouting the region in which the first base, or Home Planet, is located. This can be done immediately. Start by opening the regional map of the starting region. To learn more about navigating the different map views read The Celestial Map. Now click on each system to view its astros. At this point there will be plenty of time to record your findings. Take note of any bases paying special attention to the economy and structures. If these are growing the player is active. Its good to know if an active player is located in your home region for several reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to develop an early, inexpensive trade route.
Research and Development
Technology Level
Laser 2
Armour 2
Energy 6
Stellar Drive 1
Computer 1+

As the first base develops there are certain structures and technologies to focus on in order to enable scouting beyond the starting region. Many of these are required to enable the production of outpost ships, which will be needed for expansion. The table to the right shows the technologies required to build corvettes. Level 4 shipyards are also needed to begin production. These inexpensive ships are the fastest available until the advancement of warp drive technology. They will also be the first ships capable of travel to other astros. When the requisite techs and shipyards are completed, produce a handful of these.

There are other more important technologies to develop at this crucial stage of development. However, it is always a good idea to continue to research existing technologies. Each level of Stellar Drive technology increases the speed of ships using this drive type by 5%. Faster corvettes will greatly increase the speed at which vital intelligence information can be gathered. Researching this tech to level 4 is also needed to unlock warp drive tech, perhaps the most important technology goal for an early empire.
Maiden Voyage

Once the first corvette is ready open a neighboring regional map. Select the closest system and select an astro from that system. The astro will be displayed with a question mark denoting it as an unknown astro. Either bookmark the astro, or simply highlight and copy the coordinates. Now open the fleet screen and select one with a corvette available. At this point, there is probably only one fleet over your first base.

Select move from the menu and either paste the coordinates into the Destination field or select the bookmarked location. Enter 1 in the Quantity field next to the corvette(s) and select move.

A summary is displayed detailing the fleet composition, location, distance, destination, speed, and travel time. Now when you select the fleet screen the new fleet will be displayed with a countdown timer. Once the time reaches zero you are ready to have a look at a new region. For each level of computer technology researched, one mobile fleet can be split off from your base. If you have the tech and the available corvettes, send several in different directions to speed up the process.
Data Collection

Now that the excitement of the first trip is over, its time to get to work. Check each system for desirable astros and bases. Any astro having a base will have the base owner's name and guild tag displayed beneath the astro image. Information on desirable astros is available from guides such as the Astro Selection Guide.

It is also a good idea as the game develops to check for fleets belonging to other empires. Astros and bases are easier to locate. These will be obvious from the system maps. In order to find fleets, however, you will have to select each astro and note any fleets present. Locations of interest can be bookmarked for later reference. These will also be displayed on your galaxy map, fleet map, and base map. There are only a limited number of bookmarks available, so this method should only be used for locations which are high priority. This may be an astro you intend to establish a base on, or the base of another active empire.

It is good practice to keep a log, either in a text file or in your notes section of other notable astros. When entering this information into your notes, utilize the full coordinates and some sort of reminder of its importance. Doing so will automatically create a link to that location which can be easily selected later for quick viewing. Once all systems have been examined and processed move your corvette to the next region.

Patrolling is one of the main ways of keeping scouts and and small hostile fleets away from your base regions, you will need to patrol you outlines to keep unwanted people spying on you. First is what should be in a patrol fleet, they are usually built up of Corvettes and destroyers but people have different views. You should send this fleet to new locations all the time and have 3-4 patrol fleets to cover more area. The main targets for patrols are scouts and very small fleets. If you are at war with a guild and you find some of their scouts wedged in the edge of your sector you should destroy them immediately and as fast as possible
Improving Technologies

While corvettes make an excellent early scouting ship the vast distances across even one galaxy demand an improvement to scouting tech. Once warp tech is researched this demand is answered by the scout ship. At a base speed of 12.6 this ship is 25% faster than a corvette at stellar 4, and this is with one level of warp tech. As with the corvette, researching higher warp levels will improve the speed of warp drive ships by 5% per level. This improvement of speed may not seem like a great deal, however when you are embarking on journeys over 50 distance this seemingly slight advantage yields much shorter flight times. The maximum distance across only one galaxy is 100.

Another advantage the scout has over corvettes is the ability to travel unassisted to other galaxies. This is only possible with a corvette when launching from a base where a jumpgate has been constructed, as with all stellar drive ships. Still, the scout does not supplant the corvette for all scouting roles. A major weakness of scouts is their lack of firepower. While boasting the best speed of any ship in the game, these ships also have the lowest base power, and armour equivalent to basic fighters and bombers. For scouting missions into dangerous regions the corvette is still the better choice.
Technology Level
Energy 8
Stellar 4
Warp 1+
Computer 1+

The table to the right shows the minimum technology to produce and utilize scout ships. Like corvettes, they can be produced at level 4 or higher shipyards. With elevated computer levels, the ability to maintain several lone scout fleets will improve the chances greatly of finding the data needed to ensure an advantage over rival empires. At least five scouts is a good first goal. Regions adjacent to bases should be well patrolled and documented, especially when there is a particular astro flagged for a future base site. An often used tactic is to land a scout in such a region on an unoccupied astro. The scout remains on station allowing the continual monitoring of that region without lag for long flights. Researching computer tech to a decent level is advised. In addition to the many other advantages, this prevents the dreaded message You have reached the maximum number of fleets.
Fresh Intelligence

By now most adjacent regions should be scouted and logged. Scout ships should be traveling further and further from bases in search of elusive astros such as the coveted crystalline planets and moons. Many empires have been discovered, some active others idling. Perhaps this has yielded some trade routes, friends, or information used to decide which guild to join.

However, even if scouts have visited every region in the galaxy, the scouting task is never finished. Once an astro is discovered and logged it will remain there for eternity, or at least for as long as the server exists. But fleets move and bases are built every day, every hour. It is necessary to revisit regions from time to time. How often depends on location, strategy, and a dozen other factors. Regions close to home should be scouted regularly, at least once or twice a week. If you are battling a particularly tough opponent or in a guild at war, this should be done as often as possible. Even with an upgraded account's scanner ability, experienced players will utilize the region next door tactic to bring their mobile fleet close to striking distance. When the enemy strikes from right next door, it is often too late to launch a counteroffensive.

How often to scout is a personal choice. Scouting is perhaps the second most boring activity, second only to watching timers tick away on high level techs and structures. But the intelligence gathered will be invaluable in the end.

There are some hazards threatening otherwise peaceful scouting endeavors. From time to time players will simply clean house in their home regions. If a scout is unfortunate enough to be targeted by this routine operation, it will most likely be destroyed by a lone corvette, or perhaps a small patrol fleet. The only way to avoid this is to keep scouts moving, returning to base when the scouting mission is completed. Even being a member of a large, powerful guild does not ensure safety from this tactic.

Another danger to be wary of is inadvertently landing a scout on an enemy or neutral base. Remember, when a scout is launched the target astro is likely unknown. Picking a random astro and sending a scout on its way could result in this instance. Most players will warn before destruction of scouts over their bases, but some will not. Again, this depends on the situation. If your scout is landed on a current enemy's base and they are online, its a goner. One way to avoid this is checking the scout's destination after launch. If the astro is named, it has a base. Unless it is a friendly base, recall the scout and select another random astro as its destination. Planets or moons with solar 0 are typically never occupied with a base and make great landing areas for your scouts. Once patrols are established, the information gathered can be used to make a more educated estimate of which astros are safe bases or unoccupied. The scouts only defense against attack is its speed and size. Small fleets will not be detected by scanners until scant minutes before landing. Be prepared, check the landing site, and relocate quickly if you suspect a threat.

If a scout is destroyed, don't make a major case of it. Scouts are inexpensive, so just build another and move on. No one wants to hear a player whine about how their scout was destroyed and now they are going to war. Part of a scout's intrinsic value is its expendability.
Combat Reconnaissance

There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy. ~ George Washington

When the inevitable specter of war rears its head, good intelligence often makes the difference between an unorganized defense and a well orchestrated offensive. This portion of the guide will offer some suggestions to ensure the later.
Base Locations

As a database of regions has grown through solid scouting techniques, information about enemy bases and fleet strength should already be available to some degree. This information can be used to monitor an enemy's fleet movements. Fighters are perhaps the most valuable ship in any offensive operation. And in order to continue a prolonged campaign the enemy will need to resupply his mobile fleet with these inexpensive and expendable ships. Fighters, bombers, heavy bombers, and ion bombers all have inter drives. They must be hangered from astro to astro by ships with hanger space such as carriers, frigates, or cruisers. Regions in which enemy bases are located should be monitored at all times during a conflict. Often this will provide an opportunity to strike at a portion of the enemy's fleet which is smaller, and therefore weaker, than their primary mobile fleet.

This information also provides an opportunity to counterstrike. The enemy will be seeking to attack, pillage, and occupy. Turning the tide of a conflict is often tied to the ability to reciprocate. If the conflict is a guild war, information on base locations should be shared on the guild boards. Use the same method for reporting this information to your guild as storing it in your notes, entering the full coordinates along with pertinent information. Remember that members of the guild do not always have the same ability to view past the fog of war effect. In order to make the information more effective for a guild, a guild member's scout must be stationed in the system in which the base is located.
Fleet Locations

Finding the enemy's fleets is a more difficult task. An experienced adversary will never allow their fleets to rest for long. A fleet in transit cannot be attacked. There are two ways to determine the location of enemy fleets.

* Scanners: If your account is upgraded scanners provide an excellent method for tracking fleet movements. This method provides the location, composition, and arrival time of fleets moving into regions in which bases under your control are located.
* Scouting: In order to find fleets in other regions, a scout or other fleet must be on station in that region. It will be necessary to select each individual astro within that region to discover the position or destination of enemy fleets. Note that if a guild member's fleet or base is located within a system, that system can then be scouted for incoming fleets as well.

A fleet may not necessarily be visible at its destination. When a fleet is deployed to a given location, the size of the fleet determines how long before arrival it will be visible by others. This information is shown on the fleet movement menu as Detected in xx:xx before arrival. The detection time is directly proportional to the size, in credit value, of the fleet. For example, a scout costs 40 credits. Therefore a fleet containing 1 scout will be detected in 40 seconds before arrival. Some experienced players will deploy their mobile fleets in smaller portions to decrease the detection time. For example a fleet of 100 corvettes would be detected in 33:20. Deploying the fleet in four equal portions of 25 corvettes each would decrease detection time to 8:20, even though the fleet portions will arrive mere seconds apart.

As with base locations, enemy fleet movements should be provided to guild members. Try to include the destination, arrival time, and fleet composition. This will allow the guild to respond to the threat or opportunity in the most effective manner possible.
Maintaining The Network

The value of intelligence is also known by an enemy. Do not expect a scout stationed in an enemy system to survive indefinately. Experienced players will scan at least their systems, if not entire regions, in which their bases are located. When a scout is discovered, expect it to be destroyed in short order. While it is possible to watch over your scouts continually for incoming scout hunter fleets, it is very unlikely to save all scouts, especially those stationed within enemy systems. A corvette can only be detected 20s from arrival, and is quite sufficient to destroy a lone scout.

Deploying larger scouting forces may be one way to deter the loss of vital intelligence. A fleet of say 5 corvettes is more difficult to dispatch than a powerless scout. However, it is likely that forces will be on hand to dispatch any small fleet regardless of size, only resulting in heavier losses and larger debris fields. The most cost effective method is the use of a lone corvette in hostile space. At 20 credits this is the most inexpensive combat scout, while still boasting some military power. A corvette deployed by the enemy will at least result in mutual destruction. The situation and logistics of the mission at hand should determine the best course to follow.

The most effective way to ensure continuity of the scouting network is to have a good number of scout ships and/or corvettes available to redeploy when a scouting fleet is destroyed. High stellar and/or warp drive tech allows this to be accomplished quickly. Spread these reinforcements across bases in different regions so that flight times can be reduced to a given region. Use of jumpgates as a launching point for scouts will further improve response time. It may be beneficial to station more than one scout in a given region. Even if the enemy discovers multiple scouts, they may only dispatch one patrol fleet to engage them. This could give a warning that scouts are being targeted in the form of a battle report. New scouting ships can then be dispatched to replace those destroyed before a total regional blackout occurs. At the very least, it should provide some excitement as the enemy chases your scouts around while more are deployed. This technique may even distract the enemy from more important tasks, such as attacking friendly bases. When other guild members undertake this technique, it can become quite difficult to restrict the intelligence gathering capability of the guild as a whole.
Counterintelligence and Espionage
Cleaning House

Even during times of peace, relative to normal standards, it is a good idea to scan the regions in which friendly bases are located for enemy and neutral scouts. Generally, ships not stationed over a base are considered fair game with some exceptions. Depending on the current situation, any scouts discovered can be dispatched with a small corvette patrol. Obviously scouts controlled by friendly players and guilds should not be targeted. Neutral ships may be targeted under certain circumstances. A good example is when there is a race to establish a base on a particularly desirable astro. If you suspect a neutral party is also watching the astro, destroying their scouting ship is one way to prevent them from keeping tabs on it.

At any rate, known enemy scouts should always be destroyed as soon as possible, particularly those stationed in friendly systems. Remember to check for scouts regularly. It is likely the enemy will attempt to reestablish their network. Keep scout hunter patrols relatively small, only using what is necessary to eliminate the scouting fleet with minimal losses. This will usually prevent the enemy from detecting the patrol and relocating their scout.
Other Intelligence

This guide has focused on techniques for gathering raw intelligence on fleets and bases. But there are two other factors important to the overall intelligence effort.

* Players: Keeping a record of players involved with enemy and neutral guilds is important. Level, economy, and Player ID #'s are good things to include.

* Guilds: Enemy and neutral guilds should be tracked as well, paying close attention to fleet, technology, economy, and treaties or alliances.

Guilds with treaties will often share intelligence data. This enables a smaller scouting network to become more effective in a broader scope. Knowing the relationship between a potential or present enemy guild and other guilds will enable an informed decision before making a move toward war. Understanding the current events of the universe might provide subtle indications of how a guild or their allies might react.

This form of intelligence is very difficult to rely on. There is always the human factor, making it impossible to predict with any fascimile of truth what may or may not happen. Still, there are many times where this type of information is absolutely required in the larger picture of any universe.

While this is a divergent topic from the scope of this article, it is worth noting at least briefly. Guild spying is quite simple. A player enters the guild, often behaving as a new player or disgruntled player from another guild. This is often associated with a name change, another reason to keep track of Player ID #'s. The spy then quietly collects information from the guild's internal pages, trade boards, combat boards, and if possible, other sources. This may include lists of guild base locations, jumpgates, etc.

Most guilds will be very cautious about admitting new players during times of war to prevent spies from entering the guild. While the practice of spying is considered by most to be dishonorable, it is an oft employed tactic. When suspicion is aroused, it is best to inform guild members at once, instructing them not to post sensitive information on the boards.

Knowing a spy is within the guild may present some interesting opportunities. False information could be fed to the spy to intentionally mislead the guild to which the spy reports. The dissemination of false information is also used in other ways, for example in the Politics and War section of the forums.
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