Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Completionist PVP – Soloing in Every Ship

Whatever game I play, I am a completionist. If a game doesn't have worthwhile goals I can accomplish, as well as a way to track one's progress, I don't bother with it. In EVE, by my rough estimates, I've recently hit 500 solo kills. The number of types of ships I've solo roamed in, though, is relatively low. I typically only fly ships when I am close to perfect (relevant) skills for the fit—I want to experience all the ship has to offer at its full potential. Some ships, by my lights, also need extra help to solo well—good implants (Sven just finished cybernetics V for just this purpose), for instance, or even combat links (an alt for links is also underway).

A long-term goal I have is to solo roam (at least once per “standard” fit) in every combat capable ship in EVE (as well as some that aren't so capable). I get an idea of "standard" fits primarily through lots of research--such as looking at the losses of players I consider good PVPers. Here is the (beginnings) of the remaining ships (it's pretty much everything besides Caldari and Gallente frigs and Minmatar destroyers!):

T1 Frigates:

Navy/Pirate Frigates:
Navy Slicer


Exequror (small guns)

Lacking “near perfect skills” has largely kept me from flying many of these boats, but I'm closing in on a few. Over the next few weeks, I will be flying a Caracal and a number of Thorax and Moa fits, as well as some Coercer and Punisher fits. This is actually a big step for me, almost completely new content I've yet to experience in EVE, as lasers and ships bigger than destroyers are foreign territory. I will also be tying this project in with another project, one tying together aspects of exploration (not the PVE system) and PVP, which I will be posting about soon.I hope to return to this list periodically, going into detail about the fits I used and my successes (or failures) flying them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Applied Introduction to Regional Trading: Part I

Regional (and inter-regional) trading in EVE involves buying items at a low cost in major trade hubs like Jita, transporting them elsewhere, and selling them at a higher price. (This contrasts with station trading, which involves buying items at a low price (typically using buy orders) and selling at a higher price (typically using sell orders) within the same station.) I personally don't have the patience—or time—for station trading, but I run a few specific, small regional markets and make decent isk, by my lights, and find the activity rewarding. As I describe in an earlier post here, I started with a relatively small investment of around 500m isk and some T1 haulers and have made a growing business which nets 3-4b a month at this point, with plenty of room to grow. That's more than enough for my modest needs—and more than enough for most players, I suspect. However, I also put relatively little time into the business, and much of that time is semi-afk—compared with, say, the time required in exploration.

There are many great traders and market gurus in EVE (some of them have very helpful blogs which can be found on my blog list, and most of them make many times what I do) and not a few great trading/market tutorials. A number of trade/market streams have even popped up on twitch. However, only some market traders divulge much information about where and what they sell—doing so results in more competition, especially for regional trading which thrives on low competition.

In this post, I'm going to offer a tutorial of sorts for players wanting to get involved in a regional trade business. It will involve a specific and detailed example of exactly where I would trade and what I would trade there—readers can freely borrow my ideas, as I will only be partially setting up this market with 100-150 key items.

I. Getting Started

What does a player need to get started with regional and inter-regional trading? Really, just two ingredients: Some kind of start-up investment in isk, and some kind of knowledge of where and what to trade. How much isk you will make depends on those factors plus the amount of time you devote to the business (shipping items and updating orders particularly). My assumption will be that we only ship items and update our orders a few times a week—so no babysitting orders all day.

I.I. Investment and Profit: the 1–10–30 rule

There is no minimum amount of isk needed—just enough to get something for sale on the market at a slightly higher price than what you bought it for. I started my markets with around 500m isk—however, I poured all of my income from exploration into investment in the market, which amounted to somewhere around 8-10b isk from other sources feeding into my market investment over the first 4-5 months.

In order to make decent profit, I suggest starting a regional market with at least 500m to 1b isk. But don't stop there! For a regional market to be successful, expect to support it with other isk making activities—station trading, exploration, missioning, PI, FW, etc. I did all of those and more to support my market experiment while also funding PLEX and PVP. It is far easier to make that initial few hundred million doing pure station trading somewhere like Jita, as many recent market streams on Twitch have demonstrated. The modest rule I've developed to direct my own trading I call the 1-10-30 rule: The building-blocks of my business are individual orders which I can expect to make roughly 10% profit at least every 30 days. Ideally, you will have a lot more than 1 order, make a lot more than 10%, and do so more often than 30 days—but that's our baseline case.

So, if we start with around 1b isk, our default goal will be to make 100m in 30 days. Yes, it is very, incredibly modest--comparable to high sec PI but at a few hundred times the start up cost! Yet I find it best to start with easily obtainable goals, and, remember, we are not planning on putting much more than a few updates worth of time into this market every week—if you restrock and update orders more frequently than once or twice a week, and you pick high margin, fast moving items, you can make much, much more than a modest 10% every 30 days. What are our long-term goals? That's really the key question. I'll assume the first long-term goal is to make enough to afford a PLEX plus some spending money for activities like PVP. So, let's say our goal is to make a stable 1b a month. By our default rule, that means we are going to need to grow the market into, roughly, 10b in sell orders.

Reality has kicked in, and you've realized that if you invest 500m-1b and only meet the default 1-10-30 goals, it will be a long time before you reach 10b in sell orders simply by investing (all) your profits! That's the catch with regional trading: it is very long term and heavily dependent on how much you invest into it, particularly if you do not want to micromanage your markets. If you are looking to make quick isk, station trading somewhere like Jita is probably much better for you.

So, our “sweet spot,” then, is going to be to reach 10b isk in sell orders. That means we need a suitable location, and 10b worth of suitable items.

II. Locations for Trade

Finding the right spot to trade is the first big hurdle. Here are two basic qualifications:

1) The system usually has at least 50 players, ideally using a single, specific station.

2) The players in that system engage in activities there, or nearby, which would likely lead them to make purchases. 

The best way to find the right system in which to set up shop simply comes from experience—think about where you PVP, mission, mine, explore, live, etc., and think about what other players do in that system, and sell the items you know people there use. This applies to every type of system—from rookie starter systems to low sec hotspots.
Fortunately, we have some tools to narrow down our search. This table of trade hubs is one helpful, though not completely accurate, place to start: :  
In my experience, hubs in the top 10-15 are competitive and often over-saturated with traders already (for the more casual trader like myself). There are literally hundreds of good options, but a recent change to EVE has opened up a few new opportunities. The Sisters of Eve agents have become much more profitable, drawing a huge amount of missioners. Osmon—one of the locations for level 4 SOE agents—is a fairly established hub, and very close to Jita. CCP added new level 4 agents in Apanake, Genesis, making the system active with 50-250 players at any given time. Similarly, Simela, Genesis, where level 1-3 SOE agents are located often have 50-200 players active.

Check out the 2014 statistics (thus far) for top systems for NPC skills:

The Bherdaspot-Simela pair is one of the highest, while in previous months/years they were not even in the top 10. On the chart of trade hubs linked above, Apanake has clearly risen up to the ranks to around #20 quite quickly! Apanake is also fairly close to Dodixie and Oursulaert—two of the bigger trade hubs. Where does Simela rank? Roughly around the high 70's or low 80's over the past few weeks. While it has grown over the past few months, it would still just about have to triple in its current isk in orders to match Apanake. Of course, Simela is not without its disadvantages. For one, it is a wonderful 22 jumps from Jita (and I'm assuming we are going to make many of our purchases at Jita). Amarr is 23 jumps away. Simela is 12 from Dodixie, but Dodixie is a strange market where some items we are going to purchase are quite a bit higher than Jita (or even some close regional markets).

If you've ever been to Genesis, you also know this: it sucks. There is no main market, and many goods are spread around in all sorts of random systems. Apanake (as well as the other big hub, Tar, due to its location along a popular travel route) cannot easily serve as the sole market, as it takes 14 (high sec) jumps to go from Simela to Apanake—better to just fly to Dodixie! Simela is also close to Gonditsa—a notorious low sec entrance system which currently ranks 24th in systems on zkillboard. PVPers don't typically want to fly 14+ high sec systems to refit their ships, either. While, again, not completely accurate, here is the ranking of all trade hubs in Genesis: 

If Simela makes for a decent trade opportunity, why share it? Well, for one, it is an experiment for me, not a main venture. Primarily, though, I also know this: Simela and even Apanake can easily contain many more traders—in fact, Simela especially needs more traders to draw in more customers. If a player is looking to buy a ship for missions, say, and finds the ship at her local market, but does not find some of the mods—rigs, the right tank mods, etc.--the player will typically just fly to a major hub to purchase it all. Players get used to buying at certain locations, opposed to going elsewhere—I do, at least. When I'm PVPing, I will pay many times the cost of a needed item simply if it is in my current station or system. I lived in Simela for a few months when I first started EVE, and I was rarely able to buy items on the market there due to their sparsity—I simply got used to the long trip to Dodixie. As a result, it is likely that the extra traders in these systems would actually help, not hurt, the trade profits of each individual trader—as we will see later, there are certainly enough profitable, moving items to hold enough traders, granted they sufficiently diversify their goods. Furthermore, markets like Simela are not terribly attractive to established traders--compared to the movement of isk/items in markets in the top 10, isk moves at a glacial pace in Simela. What we lose in potential, quick profit, though, we make up for in the time required to keep it bringing in a slow and steady profit.

So, we are going to experiment with setting up out market in Simela, at the SOE station. Of course,
there are many other potentially great areas to set up a trading business, so feel free to take my suggestions here and apply it elsewhere.Virtually any station where a few dozen people are regularly docked is a potential market.

Our next step in part II is to find items to sell. Spoiler: there are far more potentially profitable items to sell here than one trader could likely cover, so we will have a plethora of options.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Random PVP of a Compulsive Completionist (or, How to Find Fights Anywhere)

Sven finished cybernetics V last week, opening up the possibility of pirate implants and +5 attribute implants. Not wanting to spend a few more days training for more jump clones just yet, I decided to clear out a clone. I picked my cheapest one, and decided to lose it gloriously—or not—in null. This was right at the end of the CFC “Hellcamp” of 0-W778, so I set my destination for that system. Ideally, I would break even in terms of isk, so I needed to kill roughly 130m.

This led me to my first experience solo PVPing in Null. After almost two and a half years, my experience in null sec remains, well, null. When I first started EVE, I heard about the “NRDS” corporations in Providence, so I attempted to make my home out there. First jump into null and I died in a gate camp, wide-eyed and terrified. In RVB I attended a few of the Ganked roams into null, but (barely) just followed primaries and took fleet warps before dying in a fire. And that's it.

So, I fit up a Taranis—my first time flying in an interceptor (that's how slow I am to get on band-wagons)—and headed to Null with the sole purpose of getting podded in order to free up a clone. Very sensible.

The trip went better than I expected. I never made it to 0-W778, but I killed 4 interceptors before dying in a close 2v1.
The last fight in particular was exciting. A gang of interceptors split up between systems, so I chased a Malediction off gate with his buddy in an Ares an awkward 100km away from us. The Malediction was able to kite me for a bit, using up a few of my AAR charges, but I overheated my MWD and slingshotted into scram range. At that point, he melted, but the Ares now had me tackled and I was low on cap. I turned to the Ares, running the AAR without charges when I could, and we both went into low structure at the same time. I popped first.

I made my way back to low sec, thinking briefly that I might just get my pod out alive and that training a few days for an extra jump clone might not be so bad after all—but, naturally, I then immediately died in a gate camp, my main reason for going to null in the first place. Pod included, I lost around 130m, but destroyed just over 140. So, I slightly surpassed my ideal goal, got a clean clone, had some great fights, and gained some much needed null sec experience.

Fast forward a few days, and I am using that clone for attribute implants when I am not going to be playing for a few days. I occasionally get 15-20 minutes free, so, the compulsive completionist that I am, I decided to start going through the list and visiting every high sec system (the in game map—which needs a serious overhaul otherwise—has a nifty feature that shows you all of the systems you have visited).

I poke around the system, checking out who lives there and what people do. Sort of like Rixx Javix has an obsession with killing ventures, I have this problem of compulsively destroying mobile tractors wherever I find them. It isn't about the killmails—though I like seeing how many I've destroyed—but just the sheer fact that they exist, sort of like space pinatas floating about.

That seems to make some players very angry. Rather than scoop it up, some attack me—in mining barges no less.
Some of these players were new-ish, so I struck up a conversation with them, had some nice chats, and sent them some isk. Some were not so new—one vet in a Mackinaw attacked me, but I was unable to tank the drones in my venture.

Some players come back in more serious ships. This Tranis killed my lowly venture, this Taranis was not so lucky.

That's not the best of it, though. At one point, roaming around in that venture, I find a mobile tractor in a belt and go to work. I also notice that the miner who owns it is jet-can mining, and has at least 100m of ore spread about. His assets threatened (I'm quickly searching the local market for a hauler for the ore!), he leaves and comes back in a Maller. I destroy his three drones, then engage him. He has an active tank and I don't have any void with me. As a result, I can only break the armor tank while overheating, otherwise I seem to do exactly the amount of damage he can rep. The heat damage on my guns get into the high 90s, and I've only gotten him into low armor. He seems cap stable, so it is unlikely I will break the tank. Worse yet, I have to leave. I found myself in such a situation before...and once again, it results in a ransom! The player offers a 150m isk ransom--so either his Maller has some nice mods, or it is implicit that the ransom includes leaving his ore alone. Just to make it explicit, I promise to leave the ore. I get the payment and warp away ~honorably~ but 150m isk richer. 

Just to cap it off, I am on my way to some new systems when a Myrmidon requests a duel. Why not, I think, I don't have much to lose in my Atron. 
I have a theory that somewhere in EVE there is a button which says "Fit Random," and it simply fits your ship with a random assortment of modules in your hangar. Unfortunately, the gambit did not work for this Myrmidon. I have a nice chat with him and send him some of my ransom earnings.

With some patience, persistence, and looking like (or just being) an easy target, you can find fights anywhere in EVE where there are other players. Next up, some PVP in the new ship skins...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Why You Should PVP in the New Custom Ship Skins

The ship painting pilot program was just announced:
Finally, some might say.

What are these new ship skins going to be used for? The prices are fairly modest, at around $0.25 per frigate. On the other hand, that's basically like flying a navy frigate over a T1 frigate, with no bonuses besides swag. So...are they going to mere collectables? I hope not. Here are five reasons why you should PVP in these ships at least once:

1) Because it will generate fights. This is one of the main reasons I will be flying some of the frigates when they are released. People love to fight special edition ships--the added swag adds incentives for people to engage, without which that Rifter might not warp into your duel-rep incursus sitting at 0 in a plex, etc. This is what makes flying stuff like the InterBus Catalyst so much fun, and has worked well for me in the past while flying ships like the Sarum Magnate.
Magnate bait decently good bait
2) To support the pilot program! The most obvious reason is that buying and flying in the ships will show CCP that there is an interest in developing the project further, and that players will actually use these ships. (Though I think the prices on all of the ships could be lower, to incentivize using them in space. So don't fly too many?)

3) For the added adrenaline. If you are like me, the price of your ship contributes to the adrenaline of PVPing in it.

4) It will make awesome killmails--both when you die, and when you lose. Who knows, maybe you will score the first solo kill in the new Krusual edition Rifter? Or maybe the first loss mail? Either way, that rocks.

5) Because swag. If you can afford it, it is worth it to fly swag. Need more be said?
Who wouldn't want to see this explode?

Monday, March 3, 2014

The End of an Era (with some exploration statistics thrown in)

This week marks the end of an era (or better—area) for one aspect of my EVE life. About a year ago, I discovered Jonny Pew's fantastic exploration videos on youtube. Low sec exploration looked incredibly fun, profitable, and safe—if you were smart about it. So I made a new character, with a 6+ month skill plan mimicking his exploration ship choices, and after considerable research moved into a quiet area of space—Maalna, to be specific. 

This was, by my lights, a perfect area: I would stay solely in that triangle of rather empty systems—Maalna, Maseera, and Shakasi—and use only wormholes to transport goods in and out. At the time, it was a rather odd choice on first inspection, as one system up in Van lived a fairly active pirate group who were quite good at smartbombing the Genesis-Aridia-Solitude pipe going through Van, among other PVP activities. However, I noticed that they went northeast—to Gonditsa—or further into Aridia for PVP, and weren't too keen on the empty systems to the south. The pirate presence also kept many explorers from lingering in this area.

So, that's where my exploration character has lived and explored. For over a year now. And it has been a blast, profitable in isk but perhaps more so in knowledge of the game. I really felt a sense of immersion in the game when living in some distant corner of low sec. However, this character has increasingly taken on new roles: as a market trader currently managing 150-200 orders, as a combat scanner, and, now, as a link alt. I've had less time, as a result, to jump-clone over to Maalna, and much less of a need for the isk since my trade business has taken off. 
a typical blitz in the blood raider 5/10
Furthermore, as a sort of anecdote of how EVE has progressed over the past year, this area of low sec—traditionally one of the most empty areas, a virtual wasteland when it comes to PVP—has become much more populated (so far as I've experienced). Explorers, PVPers, haulers, etc., frequently pass through the area (even into the triangle of systems) and a few groups have taken up residence, often leaving the area devoid of exploration sites. Low sec is a much more vibrant, living place than it was a year ago—so much more so it is rather unbelievable, given that there was no one major change (though gate gun aggro mechanics were a big one!) that improved low sec space.

This does not mean the end of exploration in EVE for me—by no means. I will likely run less exploration sites, but I have a long-term plan in progress, one I will soon post about, which combines PVP and exploration (in the broader sense than just exploration sites). I also have some new player friends I help with exploration, traveling with them to low sec and running sites together.

Here, then, is my final set of statistics I've compiled since I moved to low sec on my alt (the previous set of statistics can be found here:

Post-Rubicon Exploration:
Bood Hideout: 1
Blood Lookout: 2
Blood Watch: 1
Blood Vigil: 1 - 9m
Blood Outpost: 1 - 110m
Blood Annex: 1 - 22m
BR1/10 Old Meanie: 4 - 22m, 36m
BR2/10 Human Farm: 3 - 1m, 150m, 90m
BR3/10 Intelligence Coll: 5 - 9m, 3m, 4m, 1m
BR4/10 Mul-Zatah Monastery: 4 - 180m, 1m, 20m, 4m
BR5/10 Psycho Depot: 4 - 180m, 85m, 40m, 40m
Relic 12 (this doesn't include the many I simply passed over due to lack of worthwhile loot) – 102m
Gas: 7 – 460m
Ghost Sites: 5 - 250m

In total, only around 1.75 billion, which is down quite a bit from my exploration during the other two expansion periods in EVE. But that makes for around 8.75b over the course of 13 months--with a few breaks from EVE thrown in--and countless cups of early morning coffee, dozens of audiobooks, and probably a few hundred careless-afk-in-space trips to make burritos etc.

The best part? Even after over a year of low sec living—on a PVE alt as well as a PVP character—the place still scares the crap out of me.