Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gas Harvesting (and the "baby fleet booster" 1 month alt)

I was recently considering what to do with my 6th and final open character slot across my two accounts, and so I started a basic exploration character who specializes in gas harvesting--who also provides basic fleet boosts.

On Sven's account, I have Sven, a scout (1 month of skills) and a trader who can also fly interceptors for scouting and basic scanning (3-4 months of skills). On my second account, I have main trader who is also a link alt, perfect scanner, and former full time explorer, and then I have a second scout. But what to do with the 3rd and final character, if anything?

At first, I decided to train an alt type I call the "baby booster," an alt which has a month of skillpoints devoted to leadership skills. You can train leadership and warfare skills to IV, and around 3 to a full V, in one month of training, which provides something like 10% targeting speed, 10% agility, 10% armor HP, 10% shield HP, and 8% targeting range, and you can confer these bonuses while cloaked in a tech 1 frigate or off at a safe spot on a 1 month character. If you think about the size of the bonuses and compare them to, say, implant bonuses, those are some pretty massive benefits for very little cost and virtually no risk. Any newer player who wants to "solo" PVP and has a second account can easily obtain a "baby fleet booster" and, while not yet having a full link alt--which takes a long time to train--you essentially get "free" 10% bonuses across the board, and if the character gets exploded, you lose little to nothing. I also have a nearly complete link alt, but I rarely ever use links  (so far, in low sec, I've used them once, to fight a gang of 9 players) and will rarely use this character.

So, what else could I do with this character that would be useful, something I haven't done before? I have plans of moving into wormhole life soon, so I used another PLEX (one I actually won from an EVE twitch stream, yay) to spend a month training skills for gas harvesting as well as some basic scanning skills. I've come across gas sites for years while exploring, and have killed a few ventures in them as well, but I've never run one myself. I've also started getting into drugs, and am thinking about making my own drugs in the future, so I would like to start a stockpile of gas--for fun, really, since I could just go out and buy as many drugs as I wanted from the market. However, ever since I read about Sugar Kyle's early days in low sec making drugs for her and her pals, I've wanting to try creating them as well (preferably when CCP improves the POS system, which is coming up now, finally). Sugar Kyle still has what's probably the best guide to making drugs on her blog.

So far, I've found gas harvesting to be surprisingly enjoyable. Unlike mining, it is rewarding to find these relatively rare sites in wormholes or low security space (or NS), and then completely clear them. Not at lot of players will hunt down a venture in a gas site in low sec, and the wormholes I enter are fairly dead, so I can clear the gas relatively afk (plus, I don't exactly lose much if I die--certainly not pride, like on Sven). Since I haven't had much time to play that is not semi-afk, gas harvesting has been a nice way to play EVE without being able to dedicate full attention to it, and this character will eventually be able to provide Sven basic fleet boosts while ALSO harvesting the gas to make his drugs...what a tyrant.

Most EVE players seem to "horde" or collect something--usually, ships, or loot, or PLEX, or collectors items--but I don't really collect anything. Maybe gas--or gas and the drugs I make from it--will be the thing I collect?

In a later post, I am going to collect statistics on how much isk I made per site and how long it took. However, I will end this post with a short story about how I met a new player while gassing, one I had only early met on Sven...

So here me and another relatively new player / character are, mining in a wormhole and talking in local. I came into this hole from high sec, and started scanning for gas when Tarrus started up our conversation. He had no problem sharing the gas sites--it turned out there were 4 in the wormhole total! He had already cleared the sleepers. We had a local chat (in local chat, why not) about gas mining and wormholes. I was very appreciative of him for sharing the gas. I had to leave shortly after this, the spoils going to him alone. I am sure I will meet and befriend other new players / characters on him in in the future, and may even join an exploration group like Signal Cartel. What's ironic about our friendly conversation--in the way that EVE only is--is the fact that I had met Tarrus only days early, on Sven...

Well, no hard feelings I hope. I am glad we were able to mine gas together later, though I am not sure that if he knew it was the same player he would have so readily shared. Then again, everyone I have met in wormholes has been chill about losing ships, especially newer players (more stories about this soon!), so maybe he would have been still glad to share the gas nonetheless? I am happy to see him so quickly replacing the loss. Drugs have a way of bringing people together like that, I suppose...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Some Good Places to Trade

In my past posts about trading, I've described a lot about how I trade, where I trade, and some of the "successes" I've had (or lack thereof). I posted about trading in Thera, which was a lot of fun and surprisingly profitable. However, trading for a year and a half now, I've done a lot of research on potential markets that I now do not plan on trading in, as well as a few I've left. So, in this post, I am going to offer a few examples of places that suit my trade style, and why I think these are decent areas (based on my way of trading). Maybe someone will find it helpful. 

Of course, as many of the better traders and "market gurus" could tell you, there are probably much more optimal ways to trade, but here are the basic features of how and why I trade the way I do:

1) Since I hate updating orders, I do not trade in major hubs, and I look for market locations that are not too competitive. I look for locations and items that will only need updating once or twice a week in order to see decent turnover (e.g., see my posts about trading in Simela).

2) I buy straight from Jita/Amarr/etc. sell orders and do my own hauling.

3) I only trade on two characters--so, no army of alts that can update orders.

With those conditions in mind, the way I look for potential areas to trade is fairly straightforward: I look for areas in HS, LS, and sometimes NS, that have a decent amount of players active in that system/region, but lack a market hub in the top-20 as listed on eve-marketdata's list of stations by trade volume. That list is an good resource to start with, but the best resource is simply experience living and trading in a region. I would avoid stations in the top-20, as they are, I've found, highly competitive and not conducive to traders who do not want to update orders every day or multiple times a day.


Well, for the first example, I am going to contradict myself and describe some of the success I had in a top-20 hub, though I no longer trade there. Ichoryia is a high sec faction war and low sec hub that serves the black rise and greater gal/cal mil warzone area. I lived there for a few months, and decided to put up around 100 orders as an experiment.The hub is, in fact, listed as the 14th largest trade hub in game by isk in sell orders, and 9th largest in total sell orders. And it is, in many ways, not a fun place to trade. First of all, it is only 10 jumps from Jita. Second and maybe more importantly, one does not have to pass through Uedama or Niarja (two of the main .5 systems where large-scale freighter ganking frequently occurs) to get there. As a result, for many commonly used modules, disposables, and ships, the market is fiercely competitive and sometimes equal to Jita prices. I often made decent isk in Ichoryia buying up low sell orders when the Jita prices spiked, such as on weekends.

On the other hand, if you can find holes in the market, you can set a fairly conservative 20% above Jita price and have the only order in the region, since Black Rise does not really have another large hub. Here's an example: I sold mining ships and mining equipment in the hub for a few months, as well as less frequently used small and medium ammo types. Items moved quickly and I had no competition as I had some of the only orders on the market. I made around 2-3b isk a month, updating orders once a week, during my few months trading there--not bad considering how easy it easy to stock in virtue of its proximity to Jita. A fairly old post about trading in Ichoryia, but still a helpful one, is over at Merchant Monarchy, and is definitely worth a read. The reason I mention Ichoryia in particular is because if I were starting from scratch in regional trading, I would likely start with this hub. The distance to Jita combined with the holes in the market--and the fact that you are less likely to get ganked on your way there than most other faction war hubs--make it a good hub for a new trader.


Esescama is, in many ways, similar to Ichoryia, in that it is (partly) a faction war space hub and is fairly active (in the top 30 or so trading hubs by isk in sell orders). However, the hub is peculiar in some ways, for one because it also serves to supply Providence (two jumps away) and also because it is not directly in the region that the most active faction war systems it is close to are in--Kamela and Lamaa in particular, both of which are in the Bleak Lands. I traded here briefly for the same reason I traded in Ichoryia briefly--I was living there to PVP nearby and using it as a place to reach both FW low sec as well as active null sec space. I actually don't know how this hub is in the top 30, as there does not seem to be a huge amount of activity there. Nonetheless, I quickly found holes in the market, such as common null sec ships. HACs and HICs, for instance, were sparse on the market at the time, and moved at a decent pace/margin. At only 9 jumps from Amarr, the market here is easy to stock and a good potential place to fill "holes" in the market that lack competition but get sales every week or so.


Verge Vendor is a highly active, mostly high sec region, but a headache to trade in due to the fact that there is not really a central hub or location, and Scheenins II - Moon 2 - Roden Shipyards Factory is actually all the way down at #7 in the largest hubs in Verge Vendor. However, unless you like trading in career agent systems (I don't, but they are always an option for potential trading) I think Scheenins is the best location in Verge Vendor. This is mainly because there are frequently over 40-50 players in system, as well as the fact that it is close enough to low sec systems to be worth stocking typical faction war PVP goods there as well. A lot of mining and missioning goes on in system and close by, making it good potential areas for those types of items as well. For instance, I often put up orders of mobile tractors and depots and have many sell before updating the order later when I can. Because goods are so spread out in the market in Verge Vendor, I don't worry about out-bidding orders a system or more away so long as my order is fairly close, and this worked well for common exploration, missioning, and mining goods.



Haimeh is my last example but the one on this list I am most fond of. The main station there, Haimeh IX - Moon 11 - Ministry of Internal Order Logistic Support, is at a lowly 455 in the ranking of stations by total isk for sale. It is a "high sec island," and, to boot, a high sec island in the middle of one of the most desolate expanses of low sec, Aridia. However, Aridia is home to many explorers, as well as many more who frequently pass through, and there is a certain type of player in EVE who likes the seclusion of high sec islands (and being even more secluded than Solitude). So, naturally, I traded exploration items there, and they sold at a decent pace and very good margins. The other hubs in Aridia are also small, and serve primarily low sec or null sec players from what I've seen. Some are also occasionally home to station campers. I plan to eventually post about living in some of the "high sec islands" in game, a unique and incredibly relaxing play style in my experience. So, naturally, I traded in Haimeh initially because I was living there. Stocking the market was an issue. Bringing in some goods via blockade runner from high sec is an option, but not a great one since the system is so freaking far from any high sec hub. A better option is to bring in goods via wormhole to Haimeh or the neighboring systems. Not many players do this, so you essentially have the market to yourself even for stuff like some drones and common ammo types and exploration loot. Haimeh is one of the few places I managed to sell items as simple as Damage Control IIs for good margins and without much competition! That said, trading there is really only feasible if you are living there or nearby, which will only suit a very select group of players, if anyone, and you likely are not going to be making hundreds of millions of isk a day on average like you would in bigger hubs. Then again, you will also have to update orders less as a result, too.

Friday, February 6, 2015

When 50 Players Came After Me - Poking POCOs and Provoking PVP

So, there I was, shooting a POCO by myself in a backwater high security system. I'm not set up for pure structure bashing, even though I'm in a Rattlesnake that to my surprise seems to be doing pretty good against the customs office. Dual XLASB with rapid heavies and a large micro jump drive, with two Augmented Ogres out. It is a curious sight, considering I have a bunch of kill rights, including a free one, and am at war with 300+ characters. What could go wrong...? An Arazu uncloaks, with bomber support--pointed, damped, painted, with webs and ECM and torpedo deliveries incoming. Local spikes by 10, 20, 30, all the way to 60 people. What, indeed, could go wrong?

WELL, I'm screwed.
 Well, first I will tell you how I got into this situation, then I will tell you how it ended. As I first described in my post about finding and destroying inactive POSes in HS a small side-project I've had while doing exploration in HS is scanning for POSes that are inactive (no forcefield) but have modules that can be destroyed without removing the tower--such as labs and hangar arrays. I've made upwards of 20b isk doing this casually now, in blueprint and ship drops, but I do it mostly for fun and because it is something to do while exploring new areas of space (as part of my goal to visit every system). The first area I searched for POSes was Verge Vendor--nostalgeic, since I haven't been active there since I started the game 3 years ago.

Space piƱata!

Since I've been active in the Verge Vendor low sec area lately, I was scanning in Jufvitte one evening and noticed that the system had many new POSes since I had last been there. I did a sweep of the system and neighboring areas, and found multiple new POSes, including some with inactive modules (spoiler: after destroying them, I made close to 1b isk in blueprints. I ended up giving the blueprints to some newer players I met via, of all things, PVP. More on that in another post).

However, it appeared that some of these corporations I declared war on had active members. Sites like EVE Who seem to gauge corp/alliance activity by ships lost/destroyed in recent weeks, but some players and groups go years without ever losing or destroying a ship. One member of a corp--Marie Kaster of Exul Fossores--seemed particularly active, online quite frequently. Using a locator agent, I found her in a little LS pocket along with a corporation that I soon learned was an informal ally. When I visited, they seemed eager to send me back to high sec, undocking with Marie in a Damnation and allies in two vexors and a cruor, coming after me in my confessor. I zipped around, harassing the vexors, hoping to get the cruor isolated, but it was being shy. They did not seem particularly happy of our little skirmish.

A few days later, I notice that the Exul corp had a number of POCOs in an out-of-the-way HS system. My interest in POCOs has been growing lately after reading EVE Hermit's story about taking POCOs as a solo player. Hermit's blog is one of my favorites, and in a lot of ways we are very alike. We both play solo, engage in a varied set of activities in game, and enjoy seeing the boundaries of what can be accomplished solo (not to mention blogging about it).  I don't need the meager isk from POCOs, and I stopped doing PI around a year ago when my trader moved out of deep LS to take up trading full-time. However, the stories of taking, owning, and defending POCOs has fascinated me from my early days in RVB, when the alliance just started getting into the business of destroying POSes and, later, taking POCOs for fun and profit. (Side note: The blog Stabbed Up also has an interesting set of stories about "POCO Wars.")

So, while working from home on Friday, I decided to poke a POCO. I was hoping it would draw that Damnation out of LS to defend it, hence I fit for some PVP. Except for the Augmented Ogres, my Rattlesnake was vanilla and very cheap considering that it is a pirate BS. I orbited and did some work at the computer, but monitored local and the players in system--mostly newbies from CAS. I was nervous from the start, as I always am when sitting in one place in high security space. Everyone is a spy in HS; everyone is potentially an alt of someone who would like to kill you. Nervous, too, because I was sitting in space while at war with 300+ characters and free kill rights on my head. It was pretty fun.

I am making surprising progress on the POCO, and thinking about what to do with it if no one shows up. I recently met some newer players who formed a corp and were interested in customs offices and PI--maybe I could gift it to them? I am, though, getting suspicious, since Marie of Exul is online. I send my alt to a locator agent to see where she might be. While waiting for the locator agent to find the war target, I go back to Sven. Reloading the rapid heavies is a pain in the butt--I could do this relatively afk if I had lasers, I'm thinking. "DING!" I hear, but it is not the locator agent, it is the warning notification that I've just been attacked.

Enough thinking, because you've just been pointed, webbed, and damped by an Arazu that decloaked, and are under fire from multiple bombers. Shit, the kill right has been activated, and local jumps by 10. I lock the Arazu, send my Ogres to him, and spam my micro jump drive. ECM hits, and the torpedoes are doing serious damage. PRAISE BOB! I am not scrammed! SPAM THE JUMP DRIVE! Local is to up 60 from its original 10 and more pilots are landing. No initial scram is a major mistake on their part, considering the gang is entirely composed of cloaky ships that could have gotten close enough to do a stealth colonoscopy on my oblivious rattlesnake.

Level 2 micro jump drive skill be damned, I pop 100km away, and warp to station. What a rush! The rush is only beginning, as the horde of bombers follows me in warp to the station, just about beating my slow BS there. I still have a weapons timer. I overheat everything and prepare my XLASBs. As I land, 20 seconds. As I snug closer to the station and am being locked by the the gang, 15 seconds. Bombers are delivering torpedoes, XLASBs are a GO.

The shield boosters are just starting and my shields are at less than 50%. With the numerous target painters and my BS sized sig, the torpedoes are hitting me for volleys of 1-2.5k damage. I drop into armor; the XLASBs bring me to half shields. I drop into low armor; the XLASBs pull me to  half shields. I drop into half structure, the XLASBs pull me to half shields. Into low structure now--the timer is done, I'm in station. You lucky shit.


Players from lots of groups came after me, including many players I've flown with in NPSI public fleets. I actually feel bad that so many players formed up and weren't able to get a kill. I wouldn't have cared losing the rattlesnake, in any case, but the rush of saving it (twice) was worth it.

Marie did indeed come after me, just not alone in her Damnation like I had hoped. I attracted not a little bit of attention to myself, sitting out in space with free kill rights, apparently (but not quite) afk while orbiting a customs office. Next time I try a solo-POCO venture, I should do so without killrights and active wars. Maybe.

Incidentally, I learned something after the event. EVE's not all guns and glitter and good times. I talked with Marie, jovially joking about our little war. It is not like I am some great entity looking to crush their industrial empire, I explained. I am a solo player trying new things and looking for a bit of amusement.

All of this was great fun, I thought, but Marie and the corp holding the POCO was none too pleased. In fact, they were livid.

I've made a powerful enemy, she explained.

"You came after the wrong corp," she replied, and they would always have back up, batphones, and bad guys waiting for me. Spaceships, she explained, were serious business.

Isn't PVP just for fun, though? It's just a game after all, I bemused.

Not to her corp, she warned: "We take PVP very seriously."

Well, what do you do in game then?

"What my corp does is classified."

Monday, February 2, 2015

Trading in Thera: Part II

It has been a while since my first post about trading in the new wormhole system of Thera, but now that January is over we are starting to see the "dust" settle in Thera. The system went from one of the top systems for ship kills in all of EVE in the first days of its release, to its current position in the top-50, maybe top-100 systems for PVP activity by ship kills. In terms of who is living there, that can always change, but it is nice to see the "return" of Verge of Collapse (they went through a period of inactivity in the summer and fall of 2014), who seem to be the main permanent residents of Thera currently. Roaming gangs popping in--most often, it seems, including BNI, CFC fleets, and Bombers Bar/other NPSI fleets--seem to provide much of the fleet PVP there currently.

It will be interesting to see what PVP in Thera looks like over the next few months--whether some major groups will move there, and whether activity in the system will increase, stabilize, or continue to decline. However, Thera is perhaps less important for the PVP in the system itself, and more important for the unprecedented logistics network via wormholes that Thera provides to its residents. In terms of how I have personally used Thera in my PVP, I currently have an empty clone and stash of ships there, but have primarily used Thera as a network to other regions--particularly as an easy way to roam null sec. But what about trade in Thera?

The First Month of Trade

In my first post about trading in Thera, I wrote that, when it comes to regional and inter-regional trading, "profit is made largely in the logistics." In other words, profit is partly dependent on the difficulty of the logistics. So, how difficult the logistics would be to Thera was a big question.

It turns out, thanks in large part to the efforts of the EVE community, that logistics to Thera from day one, continuing to today, is incredibly easy. Probably everyone by now has heard of or used EVE Scout, the frequently updated public list of current wormhole connections in Thera. The site, in fact, just got a facelift, adding the ability to measure number of jumps from any system in EVE (such as, of course, Jita).

EVE Scout has made logistics into/out of Thera incredibly convenient. It is a fantastic project, and definitely one worthy of your donations to help keep it running. With the ease of logistics, though, came the realization--even in the first day after release--that Thera was going to be a very easy market to stock with most goods. Perhaps worse for trading there, though, is the fact that one can usually jump into high sec from Thera and buy what one needs in a market nearby, then head back to Thera--rather than buying in-system. At any given time, Thera has around a half dozen connections to high sec, as well as around the same to low sec space. As I am writing this, for instance, Thera has a connection 5 jumps from Amarr, and another 7 jumps. Wormholes are rarely camped, and when they are it is typically because they are close to a major trade hub during peak server population hours.

I don't exactly know how people did it, but the markets in Thera were very well stocked in commonly used items by the end of the first few days after release. Ammo, drones, all sorts of tech 2 modules and exploration gear, even a decent amount of small ships like interceptors and exploration frigates were up in both of the non-kick-out stations as well as the kick-out stations in somewhat smaller amounts. I suspect some people have been bringing in goods via freighter, as some bulky items are stocked in amounts that would be extremely tedious in a deep space transport. If you look at hauler losses in Thera on any killboard, though, remarkably few haulers have been lost in the system. I think this indicates two things: first, that the people stocking Thera are pretty good at staying safe; and second, that bringing in blockade runners or DSTs or even tech 1 haulers is not terribly dangerous.

Due to time-constraints, I stocked multiple stations in Thera with only a few test items to see what would sell. I only sent in what would fit into a blockade runner, and put maybe 6-7b isk on the market total. I made a modest 1-2b isk, only updating the orders two times, and almost everything sold out by the end of the first two weeks. This was a side-project for me, so I am happy to share what sold well in the system and what didn't.

Essentially, what I've learned is this: If it can fit into a blockade runner, and it is a commonly used item, it will probably be at the market in Thera in multiple orders and only 10% or so above the Jita price. Look at your interceptor fit, your stealth bomber fit, or your covert ops fit, and chances are all of the modules are on the market at fairly reasonable prices. There are gaps, of course, and some people have stopped trading in Thera and left more gaps, but in my experience so far that rule has been the norm. For instance, I made small margins (less than 10% of Jita prices) on the following items: Damage Control II, Core Probe Launcher and Expanded Probe Launcher II, Sisters Core and Combat Probes, all Tech 2 Light/Med Drones. Mobile Depots sold well and quickly and for a while at much higher margins than the typical tech 2 stock. Ammo of many types is still a much needed commodity on the market there, and should pay decently. At first, this stock moved quickly, but had HS-hub level margins; now that Thera has settled down, though, this type of common stock should move slower but with higher margins in many cases.

For some items, I left them on the market at high prices just to see if any would sell (to be fair, I didn't recall what price I bought the rigs at, and assumed the price was much higher). I was surprised at some of the results. For instance:

I know, I know, serious price gouging here, which I don't usually do (since, for one, people simply won't buy the goods above a certain margin), but the surprising thing is that these items actually sold. This shows that there is isk to be made in Thera outside of the usual common items. Furthermore, ships and other bulky goods are good candidates for isk makers partly in virtue of the difficulty in bringing such goods to the market there.