Encounter Surveillance System

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Every sovereign nullsec solar system has an Encounter Surveillance System or ESS. The ESS stockpiles a portion of the bounties awarded in that system, and then slowly pays them out to the pilots who earned them—if, that is, no one else steals the money first.

An ESS during the countdown for access to its Main Bank. The warp disruption effect of the ESS field is visible at the base of the image.

The ESS field

Mechanics

The ESS is available as a beacon in space which anyone can warp to. At the beacon there is a deadspace acceleration gate, which is restricted to hulls of cruiser, battlecruiser, and battleship size only. The beacon is surrounded by a “non-interactable object” which will decloak any ship and is a bit over 100 km in diameter, centered on the beacon itself. The gate leads to the physical ESS tower itself, which is surrounded by a 75km-radius Warp Interdiction field which disables

As a result, after taking the acceleration gate to enter the ESS, the fastest way to escape is using an afterburner to burn the 75km distance to the field's edge. Entering an ESS therefore usually constitutes a significant commitment to holding the field, as all quick methods of leaving are disabled. Furthermore, as the ESS grid is considered deadspace, it is not possible to warp around inside it, even after leaving the interdiction field.

Much as in a faction warfare complex, anyone warping into the ESS from the deadspace gate will arrive at the same point in space (next to the ESS tower, in the center of the bubble), with none of the control over arrival distance available in a normal 'warp to' command.

PvP implications

The ESS space presents a significantly different set of mechanics to normal known-space PvP contexts.

The fact that anyone entering the ESS field arrives at the same point after activating the deadspace gate gives an advantage in initial positioning to anyone who is already in the ESS space.

The ESS space restricts mobility, as an afterburner is the only useful way to increase a ship's speed near an ESS. This gives an advantage either in combat or in escaping to ships fitted with either an afterburner, or both an afterburner and a MWD ("dualprop"). However, this knowledge can also be exploited with the use of dualprop ships, or ships fitting both an afterburner and a micro jump drive, as the afterburner can be used to escape the interdiction field, and then the microwarp or micro jump drive can then be activated outside the field to gain an enormous range advantage over anyone else using an afterburner alone. This also means that ships which have bonuses to afterburner velocities, such as ships built by Sansha's Nation, or Tech 3 Cruisers, can have enormous mobility advantages over other ships.

Since no one in the ESS space can warp or use an MWD, ships designed only for combat at the ESS itself do not need to fit warp scramblers or warp disruptors, which opens additional mid slots for either heavier shields or other EWAR modules. Ships fitted in this way cannot, however, take advantage of any juicy targets of opportunity found during travel, and they won't be equipped to react if a sustained fight travels beyond the limits of the ESS field.

Battleships are the largest hulls which can enter an ESS field, and while within an ESS field battleship pilots do not have to worry about being dropped by capital ships.

The outside of an ESS provides easily accessible Deadspace in all of sovnull. Taking a fight outside the ESS in normal MWD ships, or even bubbling the beacon outside (forcing non-nullified ships to land at 0km) are both valid tactics to use the ESS without dealing with ship restrictions. Note that smartbombs do not work if the smartbomb would hit the beacon, and cynos may not be lit (though capital ships may warp to an ESS).

ESS banks

Each ESS is divided between a small and easily compromised "Main Bank" and a much larger and much more secure "Reserve Bank". Note that, counterintuitively, it is the Main Bank which is the smaller of the two.

Main Bank

The Main Bank is where 40% of the bounties generated in the solar system by players will be retained, rather than going directly into the player's wallet. It is paid out every 2h45min if no one steals it in that time period. It is paid out, independently on whether the capsuleer that contributed to the main bank bounty is in the system or even online.

To drain the Main Bank before the timer runs out, one has to enter the ESS grid by sitting within 10km of the ESS and selecting the 'Link' button which appears over the ESS. This initiates a countdown of six minutes, which is visible to all pilots in the solar system concerned. During the countdown the pilot accessing the Main Bank must remain within 10km of the ESS; traveling further away will end the countdown, which must then be restarted from the beginning. Linking to the ESS gives the linked pilot a 60-second weapon timer.

If the countdown reaches zero and the pilot accessing the ESS has not either left or been removed by enemy action, the accessing pilot then receives tags in their cargohold which can be exchanged for about four-fifths of the value of the Main Bank's contents at any CONCORD station. All of the ISK stored up to be disbursed to pilots who had been ratting in the system is removed. (The thief only receives most, rather than all, of the Main Bank to dissuade local inhabitants from looting their own ESS.)

Sovereign Null-Sec corporations therefore usually respond quickly to attempts on their main banks, if they know about them.

Reserve Bank

The much larger Reserve Bank can be accessed using special keys which are themselves expensive and difficult to acquire. When these are used the money in the Reserve Bank is paid out over time at a rate that spools up and then drops down.

Unlocking a Reserve Bank sends an alert to everyone in the region concerned, not just in the immediate solar system.

The time spent paying out is set by the looters, and by setting a higher time they can collect more of the money alongside more risk.

Agency information

The Agency window includes, in its Exploration tab, a section which displays ESS bank amounts, which can be filtered by proximity (2, 5, or 10 jumps) or by specific map region, and by the amount stored up.

Clicking on a particular ESS in this interface will also let you see a measure of whether there is a long or a short time left before the ESS pays out, which helps pilots judge whether they can travel to an ESS in time to raid it.

Robbing banks

Though it is risky, and though it is not especially profitable in ISK-per-hour compared to some more reliable moneymaking schemes, bank robbery can bring in money, has a low start-up cost, and is a good way to learn about moving through hostile nullsec territory.

Since the notification when the Main Bank is compromised is only solar-system-wide, it is possible for a single player to sneak into quiet nullsec territory and empty out a Main Bank, or indeed several Main Banks.

To avoid passing through well-guarded entry-points to nullsec in known space, players can use filaments or wormholes to enter and exit nullsec. Anyone entering hostile sovereign nullsec space should use an expendable clone.

A good, cheap starting ship for this activity is a Stabber fitted with a buffer shield tank, no guns, speed modules, warp speed rigs, and an oversized afterburner, which gives it near-unbeatable speed for making a quick getaway within the ESS field. A probe launcher lets the pilot do basic probing for wormholes, while a prototype cloak is useful for waiting out timers, waiting while probing, and hiding from enemies. The Stabber insures well and can be blown up with little financial loss.

A PvP-fitted gang can also use the ESS system to try to provoke a fight in enemy territory, with the prospect of an ISK payout if the enemy won't engage.