Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am a Pirate

If I am to be honest with myself, I'm not much of a PvPer.  At least not yet.  I am, however, starting to become a decent a pirate.

In my view, there is a clear difference between the two: a PvPer is someone who enjoys the challenge and thrill of a good fight against a well-matched opponent. A pirate on the other hand would prefer to gank, loot, and otherwise cause mayhem by whatever means necessary.  Whenever I undock, I'm out to cause explosions and collect loot, and if I'm engaging someone it's because I believe strongly that I'm going to win.  Thinking more like a pirate has made me much, much more successful.  I managed to score 23 kills with the incursus hull that I finally just lost a couple hours ago, which is a level of success that was basically unthinkable to me a month ago.  I can list a couple of principles that have helped me:

1. Combat probes are your friend

I have an alt on a second account that trained into Covops frigates, scanning, and hacking.  I was using him for null-sec exploration in order to make some extra isk.  One day about 3 weeks ago when I was hanging out at a mid-safe in Hevrice, Araziah (a Tusker) tried using his scanning alt to probe me down.  I noticed his combat probes and left the system immediately.  I had already learned my lesson when I was probed down and ganked by Brave Newbies after I killed several of their miners (loss:

As I was jumping out of the system, I finally made the connection.  I already had a second account with a scanning alt, so why wasn't I doing the exact same thing?  It's taken me a while to become proficient at dual-boxing, but I had one particularly good day recently: Scanned down and ganked a retreiver at a mining mission site.  I podded him after he declined to pay a ransom. Ganked a Probe at a data site.  Unfortunately, Eve-Uni guys are very fast with their pod saver tab. I found an Executioner at a FW plex that had closed.  I assume he was afk.  I got the pod too. Another gank at a hacking site.  Much nicer ship this time.  I've always wanted a Sisters' probe launcher! After I killed his Atron, the guy warped his pod to a mid-safe and then logged off.  Big mistake. Finally, I found an empty shuttle floating in the middle of nowhere

2. Good Target Selection

When I started soloing two months ago, I would take just about any fight that I could find, and I was losing the vast majority of the time.  Today, I scout all of my targets carefully before I engage.  I described the process in detail in an earlier blog post:  I have several recent kills which may look impressive to some on the surface, or might make me look like a crazy bastard for taking. Incursus vs. Harpy.  Harpies are slow, he was blaster fit, and he wasn't carrying Null ammo.  I knew all of this from his killboard before engaging, and therefore I knew I was capable of winning without much trouble provided that I could get to the edge of scram range early in the fight.  Worst case scenario, I could have overheated my web, pulled out of range, and warped off if I was losing.  I had a very similar fight with an Enyo about 3 weeks ago, which I also won.  It's fights like these that make me very unenthusiastic about flying assault frigates.

For similar reasons, I've been engaging destroyers with much more confidence recently.  Even if they are well fit, my superior speed means that I can always pull away and escape if I am losing: Comet vs. Thrasher Incursus vs. Talwar Incursus vs. Algos

I'm only really wary of fighting Dragoons, because of the neut range bonus.

3. Take every advantage you can find 

If I come across two cruisers who are fighting each other, I am certainly not above killing them both:

Apparently this is dishonorable, since they were pretty upset with me and made sure to let everyone else in local know about it.

I also recently took another look at Leadership skills.  I previously rejected them, because what use does a pirate who mainly flies solo have for these?  That was until I realized I could have my scanning alt train the skills, and pick up free bonuses to locking speed, armor, shields, targeting range, and agility for my main in the process.  Shortly after this, I took another look at links and I just started training my alt towards a  boosting Loki.

I've also been naming my ship after my scanning alt.  I figure that a fairly new player in an NPC corp looks much less scary than a Tusker.

4. Be Aggressive

I'm getting to the point where I'll engage almost anything if I can catch them ratting.  If your opponent is not expecting a fight, it places you at such a huge advantage.  Most people will panic and not respond appropriately.  It helped that none of these guys were fit particularly well: Comet vs Dragoon.  Yeah, so I lied about not engaging Dragoons.  Big whoop, wanna fight about it? Incursus vs Caracal Comet vs Hurricane

Friday, November 22, 2013

Station Trading for Lazy Slackers

Virtually all activity in EVE falls within one of two categories:

1. Blowing up internet spaceships (PvP).
2. Making ISK

Generally speaking, PvP in EVE is a great way to lose ISK.  At some point, every player has to come up with a way to make enough ISK in order to keep flying.  There are lots of ways to do this.  The method I have chosen is to station trade, and I'd like to devote this post to describe my trading approach.

If you're looking for a guide about how to maximize profits, then look elsewhere.  My whole goal is to spend as little time and effort as possible, which essentially turns this into a passive source of income.  I update my orders once per day, which takes between 15-30 minutes.  With 1 billion ISK invested, I can expect to make 25-50 million ISK per day in profit.  In terms of ISK/hr of active playing time, this is nearly as good as multi-boxing level 4 missions (or so I hear).  Since I'm usually flying cheap T1 frigates and I pay for my account, this is easily enough income for the foreseeable future.  If I were more ambitious, I estimate that I could probably make 150-200 mil/hr if I were to invest all my isk into the market and babysit all my orders.

Compared to most other PVE activities, station trading is ridiculously easy to get into.  My station trading alt never undocks.  He has maybe 3-4 weeks worth of trading skills trained, and I spent exactly zero time grinding missions to raise his corp standing in order to reduce my tax rate.  Hell, I don't even have margin trading trained.  Despite the perception that most people have of station trading, I have never made a single spreadsheet and have never really seen the need to.  Again, my approach is not at all optimal in terms of making ISK, and I don't really care.

The skills I'd recommend are:

Trade IV
Retail V
Wholesale IV
Accounting IV
Broker Relations IV
Margin Trading IV

This is really just a good goal to set.  I don't have all of these trained, and probably won't bother to unless I drastically need to increase my income.  Wholesale IV is already overkill for the amount of trading that I do.

When looking for an item to trade, use the following criteria:
1. The profit margin between the buy and sell orders is at least 6% (ideally, greater than 10%).
2. The item has a steady volume, and is traded relatively frequently.  I hate sitting on items and having unfilled buy orders.  My goal is flip everything I buy within a day or two.
3. The historical median price is in between the buy and sell prices.  Alternatively, the median price bounces between the buy and sell prices on a daily, or semi-regular basis.  Some items may have a nice profit margin listed, but has all the trade activity occurring on one end of the margin (rigs tend to fall into this category).  You want to avoid those items.
4. The value of the market is high enough to make trading worth your time.  This obviously depends on how much capital you have invested. More specifically, I look at the profit margin multiplied by the daily volume.  I typically try to invest anywhere from 2-5% of my capital into one particular trade.

Before you ask: no, I will not tell you what items I trade, nor will I tell you where my station trading alt operates.  You'll have to figure this part out yourself.

Once you have identified an item, go ahead and place a buy order.  I generally do not place a buy order for more than 10-20% of the total daily volume.  This is because I want my orders to close quickly, and my inventory to move fast.  I also don't want my own orders to influence the market value too much.  Also, don't try searching the market for the "best" item with the largest profit margin.  This is a waste of time!  As soon as you see an item that fits the listed criteria, start trading it immediately.

My biggest piece of advice: DO NOT PLAY THE 0.01 ISK GAME.  This is futile, unless you want to sit at your computer updating your orders for hours straight.  You will want to out-bid buy orders and undercut sellers by a significant amount.  This may not maximize your profit on each trade, but it WILL save a ton of frustration and make your inventory move faster.

As with anything, you'll get better at station trading the more you do it.  It may be boring, but considering that both the skill requirements and the amount of time invested are minimal, I feel like this has to be the best way to make isk in EVE.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Above Class Kills

I have recently applied, and been accepted to The Tuskers, and I apparently now join a long line of Tusker EVE bloggers!

The main requirement to join the Tuskers is that the applicant must link five solo kills, two of which must be against a ship which is "above class", or supposedly more powerful than the pilot's own.  Quickly browsing the recruitment forum, one can see that the failure to meet this requirement is the main reason applicants are ultimately turned away.  I've also recently seen many posts on the EVE subreddit from new players (or old carebears) who are still hunting for their first solo kill.  I have found my solo fights to be the some of the most thrilling and rewarding moments I have experienced within EVE thus far.  As someone who only started collecting solo kills recently, I would like to offer my perspective on how a relatively new, low skill-point player can get started.

First of all, this requirement might sound like a major challenge, but it actually isn't all that hard.  As with many things in EVE, there is a learning curve here.  You will start off by losing badly.  A lot.  The five solo kills I posted on my application to the Tuskers were literally five of the first solo kills I ever had, and it took me a couple weeks of concentrated effort and failure in order to collect them.  However, I've now found that the first few kills were the most difficult.  As a result of learning a lot of hard lessons on the way, picking up a few tricks, and gaining confidence in myself, the kills are now coming much more easily.  Less than one week after I submitted my application, I racked up enough kills in order to meet the requirement again, including two fresh above class kills.

If you have literally zero experience with PvP in EVE, then my recommendation is to join a training corp, or a faction warfare corp, and get some experience with group/fleet PvP first.   If you jump straight into solo PvP, you will not only lose, but you will probably not gain a good understanding of why you're losing, and you'll miss out on an opportunity to learn from your corp mates.  I spent time with Red Federation and with Eve University's Low Sec Campus, and I found them to be both newbie friendly and loads of fun.  The rest of this post is going to assume that you have some basic knowledge, such as how to use d-scan, how to set up your overview, etc.

The Setup: Ship fits and Skill Training

Start with T1 frigates. The Tormentor, Incursus, Tristan, Slasher, Condor, Merlin, and Breacher are all fine ships.   I cannot stress this enough: make sure you are using a decent fit on your ship.  Seek the advice of more experienced PvPers.  If you find yourself losing again and again, there is a chance that your fit is horrible.  If you need any advice for a particular ship, ask in "The Tuskers Public Channel" in EVE, and someone will help you.  As an example, I'll give an Incursus fit here, which has proven itself to be very effective:

[Incursus, Rail incursus v2]
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
Pseudoelectron Containment Field I
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
200mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
Fleeting Propulsion Inhibitor I

125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
125mm Railgun II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S

Small Anti-Explosive Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I

Hobgoblin II x1

The strategy when using this ship is to kite your opponent at the edge of warp scrambler range (6000-7500m).  The combination of an AB, scram, and web, will allow you to control range, and the optimal range of 125mm railguns just happens to be right in this sweet spot.  This is highly effective against many ships fit with autocannons or blasters, which are generally unable to project much DPS at this range (even with Null or Barrage ammo).  If you are able to land the scram & web, you'll also be able to make quick work of any ship that is MWD-fit and set up for kiting outside of warp scrambler range, such as a Condor or an Executioner.

You will need a minimal level of skill point training.  Set up a training plan that will allow you to use all the T2 modules, especially the T2 weapons.  Training the core fitting skills (Power Grid Management, CPU Management, Weapon Upgrades, and Shield Upgrades) will help fit your ship if you are short on CPU or power grid.  Plug the fit into EFT, and compare your DPS with that of an "all V's" character.  If your DPS is around 70-75% of an all V's character (or higher), then you should be fine in most of your engagements.  If you need more DPS, work on your ship hull skill (get racial Frigate IV, at least) and get the associated gunnery/missile support skills to III or IV.  Don't go too crazy with trying lots of different ships and fits; it will help immensely if you focus on learning to fly a few ships well.

There is a tendency for people to think that soloing in low sec is futile, because the majority of people have maxed skills and an alt providing links in the system.  On the contrary, I firmly believe that an "all III-IV" character, with T2 weapons, is fully capable of winning fights consistently if you pick your targets well, and set up engagements such that they start in your favor.  The vast majority of my fights have not been close.  I usually either win easily, or get smashed. I have only had a handful of fights where an extra 10-15% DPS/EHP from skills, boosts, or links would have made a difference in the outcome.  You do not need to spend months training skills in order to be effective.

Choose a base of operations that is close to Faction Warfare space in low sec, preferably a trade hub such as Stacmon or Hek. Buy 20 of your frigate of choice, and immediately fit all 20 of them.  This way, when you lose one, you have another ship all set up and ready to go.  Start with the expectation that you are going to lose all 20 of these ships within a couple of weeks.  A fight in EVE requires you to process a lot of information, stay calm under stress, and act quickly without making any fatal errors.  This is very hard for a new player.  It will take time to get past the "PvP shakes" that we all love so much, and you will do some very stupid things in your first few fights that will immediately be obvious after the fact.  I've lost because I forgot to launch drones.  I lost once because I neglected to turn on my prop mod.

Setting up an Engagement

In most of my fights, the outcome is determined before the engagement actually starts.  If it starts within my optimal range (and outside of my opponent's), then the fight is really more of an exercise in not screwing up rather than flying my ship well.  It is critical that you set up a fight such that it starts in your favor.  Keep in mind, if you are up against a higher-class ship that is properly fit to kill your ship and prepared to fight, then YOU WILL LOSE no matter how great of a pilot you think you are.

Whenever I jump into a new system, I start collecting information immediately.  My procedure loosely follows these steps:

1. Check local.  How many other pilots are in the system?  Check each pilot's information, and you will be able to see their corp/alliance, how old their character is (which gives a rough estimate of the level of skill points & PvP experience), their security status (more negative means they are more likely to actually want to fight), and whether they are part of a faction warfare militia.

Sometimes, this alone can give you enough information.  If you're flying an Incursus, a Thorax is usually pretty scary, and it's not normally something you'd ever consider engaging.  However, if the Thorax in question is being flown by a character that is two weeks old, then it becomes a juicy target, no matter what kind of ship you're flying:

2. Check D-scan.  My D-scan window is always open.  Even before I de-cloak after jumping, I'm already pulsing my long D-scan to get an idea of what other ships are in the system with me.  To pin-point any targets, I typically start by checking all the faction warfare plexes.  After this, I'll check all the celestials and asteroid belts.  Use some caution when jumping on targets, someone sitting in a plex is at an advantage because he can set up at his optimal range.  He can also check D-scan to see what ships are incoming, and simply warp away if he feels that the fight is not in his favor.  On the other hand, a great way to get a kill is to catch someone who is ratting in an asteroid belt.  If you are the aggressor, many people will panic once they are engaged.  This catalyst didn't even try to fight back:

3. Check their kill board.  Let's say you have a list of people in local, and you've found a couple of targets sitting in different plexes.  You have no way of knowing for sure who is in which ship unless you warp into the plex and check for yourself.  You can, however, look up each pilot on eve-kill and check their killboard.  This gives valuable information about how experienced they are in PvP, what types of hulls they typically fly, and (most importantly) how their ships are fit.  For this reason, I pretty much always have a web browser window with open when I'm playing.

Between information gained from Local, D-scan, and Killboards, you can deduce who is in which ship with a stunning level of accuracy.  Most people use the same ships and fits over and over again, and you can use this information to your advantage and score kills that you normally wouldn't consider to be possible.  For example, most would argue that it's suicidal for a Tristan to dive into a plex when a Comet is sitting inside.  Aside from having less drone bandwidth, a Comet is basically superior to a Tristan in every way.  Compound this with the fact that the Comet is probably set up in the plex right at his optimal range, and he should be favored to win the fight regardless of whether he's fit with blasters or railguns.  Also, consider that the pilot was several years older than mine, and he probably had as much as 10 times as many skill points.

However, from his past losses, I'd seen that not only was this the only pilot in the system who regularly flies comets, but that this particular pilot fits his Comets with an MWD and blasters.  My Tristan was fit with an afterburner, a warp scrambler, a web, and railguns.  So I was able to easily dictate the range of the fight, and kite him well outside the range of his guns, while applying all of my DPS.  The result:

4. Look at their ship.  Checking the killboard doesn't always help.  Sometimes pilots will fly many different variations of fits within the same hull.  Sometimes the information is not readily available.  There are two ways you can deduce how he is fit:

A. Look at his ship, and see what kind of guns he is using.  You can do this as long as you are within 100km of your target.  The Altruist has a great chart on this:

B. Add velocity to your overview, which will let you determine whether he has an afterburner or a microwarpdrive based on his speed.

These two pieces of information can give a rough idea of what his fit is, and what his optimal range is.

5. Know your enemy.  Just because your opponent is flying a "superior" hull, doesn't mean that he is favored to win.  For example, the Incursus fit I listed above will usually beat a catalyst that's fit with blasters, simply because it can kite them outside of their optimal range with relative ease.  This is knowledge that comes from experience.

A couple of days ago, I ran across an Enyo while flying a Tristan.  Enyos have a combination of DPS and tank that is virtually un-matched among all the frigate hulls.  However, they do have one problem: An Enyo is SLOW.  Much slower than just about any T1 frigate, even if they are heavily armor plated.  I only knew this because I had been playing around with Enyo fits in EFT less than an hour before this fight.  This fight was mine to lose because of my superior speed and projection (which I actually almost did =\):

That's really about it.  I'm still a noob and that's about all I know.  In the kills I linked, you'll notice that I didn't write much about the actual fights themselves. That is because in each case the fight wasn't particularly special, and in each case I won fairly easily.  The outcome was essentially decided before the fight started.