Killmail Archivist

EVE Online theorycrafting and history


History of a Ship: Echelon

(Apologies for the radio silence — a medical emergency killed most of my spare time for the last week.)

CCP likes to do limited-edition ships whenever Eve hits an anniversary, or has a major feature launch. The last few releases have mostly been reskinned versions of T1 frigates; however, even when they were unique ships, most of them either were never useful to begin with (the Primae) or ceased to be useful due to balance changes.

So, let’s talk about one that is useful: the Echelon.

Echelon hull

An Echelon was awarded to every account who logged into Eve during the release of the Incursion expansion in late 2010. This expansion added Sansha incursions to the game; prior to the expansion’s official release, CCP actors did a number of live events to drum up excitement for incursions.

During these live events, a wormhole would appear near a planet, and Sansha ships would spawn around the wormhole and “steal” citizens from the planet to turn into slaves. (This is why the first name of all Incursion rats are the name of a solar system in Eve; that’s the system they were taken from.) The wormholes were targetable, and CCP hinted that running data analyzers would have some effect on it. I assume that this was a complete lie, and CCP just wanted some people to show up in scanning ships — more targets. :)

That said, the Echelon was released with this in mind: a dedicated data-analyzer ship. It has a single mid slot, and no low/high/rig slots; it’s only capable of fitting a single module in that mid slot, the Purloined Sansha Data Analyzer. (One was handed out with each Echelon.) At the time it was released, the hacking minigame didn’t exist, and data analyzers simply had a chance per cycle to unlock the can; the Echelon’s scanner was simply average.

However, when the hacking minigame was instituted and all data analyzers were redesigned, the Echelon and its custom analyzer was included in that redesign pass, and became fantastic. In particular, until you have Hacking V trained and can use T2 Data Analyzers, the Echelon is the best ship in the game for Data Sites — you need a Covert Ops or Astero with a T2 Analyzer and two hacking rigs to equal it.

Listed as a virus strength / virus coherence pair: (bigger is better for both numbers)

  Echelon Heron
(unrigged)
CovOps & Astero
(hacking rigs)
Hacking I 40/90 25/50 30/70
Hacking IV 40/120 25/80 30/100
Hacking V 40/130 35/110 40/130

Even a perfectly skilled hacker, with the best ship and modules in the game for it, can only tie the Echelon.

Of course, there’s a flip side: the Echelon can’t fit a probe launcher, or a propulsion mod, or any sort of tank module. So, you’ll have to probe out the site with another ship, and then switch to the Echelon to hack it. But that may be an acceptable tradeoff for quiet systems and players with low SP.

If you don’t have the Echelon, they’re quite cheap, despite being a limited-issue ship; a ship and its matching module can be found at Jita for 7.5M isk total. Quite cheap, given that the nearest comparable ships for hacking cost 20M or more each.

Update: A sharp Reddit commentor also points out that, if you have multiple Echelons sitting around, you can get a rather funny set of items by reprocessing the Purloined Analyzer.

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Modules With A Story: Hellhound Drones

(Apologies for going quiet for a few days — went out with the family for the Fourth of July!)

If you asked people what the rarest drone in Eve is, most people would talk about the “Augmented” drones (fast drones with split damage types that can be built with parts from Rogue Drone cosmic anomalies), or the Gecko. Incursion runners will probably know about the Shadow, the rare Sansha fighter-bomber that can be acquired from incursions.

But there’s a truly rare drone out there that very few know about: the Hellhound.

Entity, kindly showing off some Hellhounds in a equally rare ship.

The Hellhound is one of the rare cases of an developer item in player hands.

If you download the Eve Database and examine the item types table, you’ll find many items marked as unpublished — ammo, ships, modules, and more. The primary effect of being unpublished is that the item cannot be searched for in the Market, or in an item type search in Contracts.

Most unpublished items are simply unused items and unfinished artifacts from the CCP development process: They’re an idea that CCP devs liked enough to try implementing on a test server, only to find that the item wouldn’t really work out well in live play. The idea would be canceled, and was never launched in TQ, but the remnants of it remain in the database.

There are also a few unpublished items that were once part of normal play on TQ; these items were disabled by CCP for various reasons. If you still own them, they remain in your inventory, but CCP marks them as unpublished so that they can’t be sold on the Market — mainly so that newbies don’t accidentally spend billions on a useless item. This is the case for deployable minefields [1], most of the canceled skillbooks, and some old collector’s items.

The Hellhound drone, however, qualifies for both of these. It was a developer experiment for an ultra-powerful variant of the Ogre, and was never meant to get into player hands; however, due to a typo, it was accidentally added to the drop table for a structure in a certain mission. A few days later, when players started posting on the forums about them, CCP promptly fixed that typo and removed the source of them, never to be seen again. However, they allowed players to keep the drones that had dropped up to that point.

In 2012, CCP changed their mind, and attempted to remove the Hellhound (and other unpublished-but-extant items) from the game entirely; however, they ended up adding them back due to player outcry.

I don’t know if anyone who owns a Hellhound has actually bothered using them in PvP; until this spring, they were simply a clone of the Ogre II heavy drone, with slightly higher DPS. When the Kronos expansion came and readjusted all drone damage upwards (to compensate for the nerf to the Drone Interfacing skill), the Hellhound was left out of that adjustment pass; as a result, it now has significantly lower damage than any of the normal drones in use today, making it simply yet another collectible artifact of Eve history.

1: There’ll be a post in a few weeks about minefields. They once existed, and they weren’t nearly as cool as they might sound.