Friday, February 21, 2014

Making ISK: Wormhole PI

I joined Red vs Blue shortly after I started playing Eve, and I flew frigates worth less than 1m isk total.  In spite of my ships being ridiculously cheap, I was almost completely broke within two weeks. It's hard to establish a reliable source of income when you're part of a permanent war, so I left the corp and spent a few weeks running L2 & L3 missions in a Caracal and a Drake.  As much as I like Eve, the PVE aspects of this game are really BORING.  I absolutely hated running missions, so I've stopped doing it, but this did net me a couple hundred million isk which was enough to get me started and ultimately become self-sufficient.

I know now that a single week-old character can make more than 10m isk a day with virtually no time and effort by doing PI extraction in a wormhole.  I started doing this as an experiment, mainly because I knew absolutely nothing about wormholes or PI (and I wanted to learn about both), but also to pick up some extra isk in order to help bankroll my recent purchases of a link Loki and a Freighter.

I created two new characters with some unused slots that I had and trained the following list of skills, which didn't take much more than 1 week or so to train (even without implants).  These skills allowed me to fly an Epithal with a Core Probe Launcher and a Prototype Cloaking device fit and operate five productive planets:

CPU Management IV
Cloaking I
Astrometrics III
Gallente Industrial I
Remote Sensing III
Planetology III
Command Center Upgrades IV
Interplanetary Consolidation IV

Next, I cruised through high-sec and scanned every anomaly I could find, hoping to find wormholes.  The goal was to find a system in w-space with a high-sec static exit.  You can identify the type of wormhole by looking up its name in this chart, or by jumping through the wormhole and looking up the system name on staticmapper to see what type of static exits the system has.

A w-space system with a high sec static will ALWAYS have a wormhole leading to a high-sec system.  The existing one will despawn after about a day, and will be replaced with a new one leading to a new high-sec system.  This is important for logistics: you will eventually have to get your extracted commodities OUT of your wormhole and to a high-sec trade hub.  Basing out of a system with a high-sec static makes this much, much easier.  You get the best of both worlds: access to high-yield planets which are comparable to those found deep in null sec space combined with access to high-sec systems only one jump away.

I only had to explore a few high-sec systems before I found a system with a B274 wormhole, meaning that I was in a C2 system with a high-sec static exit.  The other consideration I had was the tax rates on the customs offices, which were 7.5% in this system.  I suspected that I could probably find a better system, but I'm lazy and figured this would be good enough.  I moved my two characters into the system, flying Epithals fit with cloaks and core probe launchers, and safely logged them off.  Over the course of the next week, I logged them in periodically and checked d-scan to see whether there was any activity in the system.  Every time I checked, the system was dead.  Perfect.

Time to set up my planets.  At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about PI extraction, and many of the resources I found online were outdated.  I did find the Eve-Uni wiki page on planetary commodities to be very helpful though.  I ultimately did a bit of experimentation and come up with the set up show below:

The setup has:
One Launchpad
Two Extractor Control Units
Six Basic Industry Facilities
Three Advanced Industry Facilities

The planet extracts two P0 commodities, refines them into P1 commodities in the basic industry facilities, then refines them into a single P2 commodity with the advanced facilities and transfers them to the launchpad (which I use for storage).  The particular setup shown above extracts Non-CS Crystals and Heavy Metals and manufactures Consumer Electronics. The setup is designed for maximum laziness.  Once it is set up, all it requires is that I periodically spend about 5 minutes restarting my extractors to make sure everything keeps running.  It takes about 2-3 weeks to fill up the launch pad, and the volume is low enough that everything can be easily hauled out in Epithals.

With these setups and two characters, this is what I extracted after 9 days:

I also came to realize that a few planets were not running optimally; I could extract different commodities and make quite a bit more.  Still, 169 million isk for about an hour (total) of managing extractors isn't bad.  Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a happy ending.  The corporation who owns the customs offices in my system decided to raise their tax rates from 7.5% to 85.5%, so I had to shut everything down and move on.  Such is life.  I've since learned that setting up factory planets is far more profitable, so I think that's the direction I'm going to take.

New players: if you're space poor and bored with mining, then consider doing PI.  This is a completely PASSIVE income stream.  One could nearly plex an account by using the two extra character slots to do wormhole PI, and supplement this income by ratting or running missions on his main.  This is particularly great for new players because it requires very few skill points and almost no capital to get started.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Players

A little more than two weeks ago, eve experienced its largest fight ever in B-R5RB.  It was significant enough to significant coverage on most gaming sites, as well as some press from mainstream news outlets.  Understandably, this has attracted a large influx of new players to EVE.  This is apparent from reddit, where there are several posts per day from new players who feel lost and aren't sure what to do, are trying to find ways to make isk, or who lost a ship/did something stupid and are trying to learn from their mistakes.

The influx of new players has not gone unnoticed by the Tuskers.  Our home system of Hevrice is one of the closest low-sec systems to one of the Gallente starting systems.  Under normal circumstances, it's not unusual for the occasional new player in a Venture or his first destroyer to wander into our system and promptly get destroyed.  The past month has seen some changes: In the past month, Ventures are the #1 ship destroyed by the Tuskers, with the Center for Advanced Studies (an NPC starting corp) as the #1 victim.

destroyed a thorax who was at an asteroid belt earlier this week.  He and a friend of his in a Tristan were both very new players.  The Tristan pilot opened a convo with me afterwards, and we had an interesting discussion which brought me into the mindset of a new players.

His first question to me was "What provoked the attack?".  To someone who's been playing eve for more than a few weeks, this is obvious: I'm a pirate.  My sec status is -10.  If you're there, I'm going to attack you.  I don't really care if you're in a Venture, a Thrasher, a Faction Battleship, or a blinged-out T3 cruiser; my primary purpose for playing the game is to get fights, cause explosions, and collect loot.  Most other inhabitants of low-sec would do the same, after all if they weren't looking for fights, most them would just live in high-sec (or an empty area of null sec).  To a new player though, this aspect of Eve is not so obvious.  Virtually all PVP in other MMOs is either staged or voluntary for both parties.  In the rare exceptions, such as Rogues who gank quest runners on PVP servers in WoW, there is no reward for the ganker, no real loss for the victim, and no depth to the gameplay mechanics that make it worth pursuing as a primary means of playing the game.

We talked for several minutes, and I passed on whatever advice I could about how he could avoid losses in the future.  I even passed on 15m isk so that he could replace the Thorax.  Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that he'll probably lose another ship pretty soon.  I'm going to dedicate a couple posts to helping out new players, both in terms of survival outside of high-sec, and how to get started with making isk.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Suicide Ganking!

I've been playing online games in some form for almost 20 years, which dates back to my pre-teen years.  The internet was just starting to become mainstream, and like many other immature kids, I soon discovered that I could use my anonymity to act out on my pre-pubescent angst and grief other people in online games without any consequences.  This included cheating at card games and chess (and talking smack), running hacks and townkilling people in Diablo, and teamkilling people in Rainbow Six, until I discovered a way to detonate door charges that would cause the server to crash every time (that was funnier).

I like to think that I've long since outgrown such juvenile behavior.  On the other hand, I've been having loads of fun suicide ganking in EVE.  The idea is simple.  Unlike most MMORPGs, you're allowed to shoot anybody anywhere in EVE, no matter what region of space you are in.  What varies are the consequences for the aggressor, which is a somewhat complicated function of the security status of the system, the security status of the player being attacked, aggression & suspect timers, and the exact location where combat is taking place.  However, in high-sec space, it's real simple: if you attack someone, CONDORD will come and destroy your ship.  This cannot be avoided, and this is what keeps most people safe in high-sec.  The equation becomes different when a particularly expensive ship is being targeted.  As an extreme example, if a freighter is hauling 10 billion isk worth of cargo, it becomes profitable to sacrifice a dozen Tornadoes in order to destroy it and run off with the loot.  More often, a few simple destroyers (like Catalysts or Thrashers) worth less than 2 million isk can be used to gank mining barges worth more than 200 million isk.

The mechanics are unique to EVE.  I've never experienced anything like this in other games.  This would never be tolerated in WoW, but in EVE it's an accepted part of the culture.  You may an image of suicide gankers which is not unlike that of the teenage douchebag that I was.  On the contrary, we were very polite to our victims (aside from the act of blowing up their ship, obviously), and the victims mostly handled it well, sometimes even congratulating us on our success.  I think the whole mechanic works very well in EVE for a few reasons:

1. Getting ganked is mostly avoidable.  It's usually a result of several decisions that made the ship an attractive target.  For example, if you're mining in an untanked Hulk in a 0.5 sec system that's adjacent to low sec, then you've made multiple decisions that put your ship at risk.
2. Ganking successfully (and profitably) usually requires a group.  Very few ships can be reliably ganked with a single T1-fit destroyer (like untanked retreivers, hulks, and mackinaws).  Even fewer can be profitably ganked with a single Talos or Tornado.  If you're autopiloting in an untanked T1 industrial that's carrying 500m worth of cargo, then a single volley from one Tornado will destroy your ship, and you'll deserve it.
3. A suicide gank is really easy to screw up.  It requires a lot of experienced scouts and probing alts and a high-degree of coordination between a lot of people.  Your group ends up looking really stupid if it fails.
4. After a gank, the group must wait for 15 minutes for the criminal timer to run down before they can try again.  To me, this seems very reasonable, and it makes each gank attempt much more important to execute correctly.  Immediate re-attempts would make the whole thing feel more like griefing.

In the past three weeks, the Tuskers organized and ran several public suicide ganking fleets, and we destroyed well over 20 billion isk worth of ships.  Aside from a couple warm-up runs against miners, we were mainly targeting Marauders, Faction Battleships, and T3 cruisers who were running missions.  Most of these ships were valued at well over 1 billion isk each.  In each case, we brought 15-20 destroyers along, which have a total value of about 30-35 million isk.  A single deadspace or faction mod easily covers the cost.  Here are some of the kill mails:

Orchestrating a gank required having a few alts camping a station and scanning ships to look for expensive mods.  The best targets were recorded.  All of the adjacent systems had a couple probing alts, who would note the presence of our best targets in local, and start looking for them with combat probes.  Once the target was scanned, the prober then warped to the target to determine whether a gank is viable.  If the scout is able to provide a good warp-in, then it's on!  There's very little that's more satisfying than setting up a nice kill for 20 people =).  We were operating out of a major mission hub, so there was no shortage of good targets.

If you'd like to know what it's like to be on the other side of our gank squad, then read this blog post.

Remember, in EVE you're only safe if you're docked.  Never fly what you can't afford to lose. 

Also, if you're interested in trying suicide ganking, then check the public roams section of the Tuskers forum any upcoming events.