Wednesday, June 26, 2024

I got ganked

In addition to the usual main and alt accounts, I also resubbed my trading characters. Trading has been my on-and-off income generator. It pays well, but I will be damned if it's not a soul-crushing activity. It still beats Ishtar ratting in null by a mile. I only had to do a few Guristas Haven sites to understand that Ishtar ratting is something I never want to do again. Ever. Yes, you can do it semi-afk, but you still need to pay attention to local or occasional drone aggro. It doesn't pay that well, takes a long time, and is boring as fuck. Not to mention, if you get ganked, you can write off several hours of ratting for nothing. Slow and steady ISK generation is not for me. Fast activities with quick bursts of ISK work best. If I ever decide to do null anomalies, it will be in a pimped battleship or a Marauder. That's why I really enjoyed high-class wormhole PVE. You clean out a few systems in a couple of hours and have ISK to play with.

Anyway, the main topic I wanted to talk about is ganking. I have been doing some cleanup and consolidation of my assets, where I picked up my wormhole DST and transported the stuff to Jita at roughly 50 jumps. The fit is non-tank, as it was mostly used in wormholes, but I did use MWD+Cloak if I saw anyone on a gate. During the first run, I managed to transport the stuff, roughly 4 billion of it, successfully without hiccups. Didn't really think much of it. I had to do another errand and ship my BLOPS to a staging area, another 30 jumps or so. I have tried contracting, but after several hours, no one picked up the contract, even with a generous reward. Probably had something to do with the end destination being a player-owned station, although with public access. Owned by a well-known shipping corp.

Anyhow, I jump to the 0.6 Sivala system and use MWD+Cloak, but suddenly, I am decloaked and then scrammed. Oh shit. I align and spam the warp but to no avail. My Occator goes down. Ganked by a few bombers and t1 cruisers. Thankfully, the pod warps away.


I have played this game long enough to know what to expect. Honestly, nothing gets me more nervous than transporting something valuable in high-sec. The high population of HS makes it difficult to identify immediate threats. In any other space, you see neutral, see the ship, and know exactly what to expect. In HS, people travel all the time, and suicide gankers avoid security status downgrades by buying security tags. Therefore, the gankers can often be mistaken for any other neutral. When I jumped, I did not notice anything suspicious. My focus was primarily on the MWD cycle, but the overview wasn't busy, and no usual threatening ships like Tornados were present. Not that it would have changed anything in my behavior.

I "own" the fitting mistake of lacking tank. I thought MWD+Cloak would negate that, but obviously, that's not the case. Align still takes over 10 seconds, and that is plenty for a competent pilot to decloak and tackle. The EM hole that the attackers exposed did not do me any favors. However, the fit wasn't "naked" either. It had large shield extenders for the buffer, damage control, and one membrane. I thought it would require a bit more "punch" to kill DST, but I was wrong.

While the ISK lost was nothing crazy, the time spent shopping, buying fit, and transporting was probably the most annoying part. It also clearly showed me that MWD+Cloak should not be relied on too much. I needed to adapt, so I went back to Pyfa's drawing board to see what I could come up with to avoid this again. While congratulations to the gankers, and I hope they enjoy their dropped Sin, I do feel the investment required was below the threshold I would expect for a DST gank. People always say you should not ship anything expensive, but unless you are shipping high-volume, low-cost items, it's very easy to have a couple of billion worth of cargo at least. Honestly, I do not know who these brave souls are who do space trucking and transport high-volume, high-value cargo. Looking at a killboard, freighters with bulkheads fitted carrying less than 1 billion cargo killed are not an uncommon sight. Clearly, profit does not always play a role in the equation, and people gank just for the sake of ganking. I would say it is fair when a gank requires 50 people to coordinate, but the freighter kill I linked, "Moonpire" is in half of the pilots' names that are on the killmail, which leads me to believe it's a few dudes multiboxing the whole fleet. I'm sure they have a "legal" set up where they cycle through accounts with hotkeys and can achieve such ganks without any broadcasting, but I dislike it. I think it crosses a line regarding what multiboxing should be able to achieve. While I tried apps like Eve-O Preview, I will continue with old-fashioned alt-tabbing.

Back to my DST gank. After I got back to Jita and got another DST, I spent more time in Pyfa tinkering with fits than I spent on logistics. There was an option to just contract my new Sin to PushX, but it was a matter of principle. I will transport the damn ship myself if it's the last thing I do. I came up with the below fit. 

Close to 150k EHP overheated was as much as I could squeeze in. It feels like a brick and aligns like a brick, but it remains to be seen if it tanks like a brick. The biggest issue I have is that I can no longer MWD+Cloak, which is a huge downside if I keep the plate in. I can still overheat the MWD to enter warp instantly, but that is not something I would like to do every system jump. Nevertheless, this felt like the tank I needed, and that's what I used. I am happy to inform you that my second attempt was successful, and Sin arrived at its destination. This might work well in high-sec, but I am not too excited to take it anywhere else. It's too slow. I am not sure if there is a good middle ground somewhere.

Cherry on top

And by cherry, I mean a big dump on an already shitty day. While I was fully focused on getting my pod out during the gank and reevaluating the situation, eventually, I alt-tabbed back to my scanner alt in null-sec. I completely forgot that I was traveling when the whole gank ordeal happened. I come back to the strategic cruiser wreck and a pod just idling on top, while Guristas Executor happily orbits the gate.

God damn it. So, eventually, I got ganked twice. I was surprised I did not get shield, armor, and hull warnings to get my attention. I guess I need to re-assess my inactive client muting settings. Anyway, it's one of those days. Funnily enough, the pod had an expensive virtue set and just sat there for a long time in a pipeline. Wreck unlooted, too. One more argument for blue null-sec safety over high-sec.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Kiting, sniping and beer

I have been dabbling in a null-sec PVP here and there. It is quite different from what I am used to. Despite playing EVE for over a decade, null is a new experience for me, so in a way, I feel somewhat like a new player, which is quite nice as it lets me re-experience EVE in some aspects. For anyone feeling stagnated, I recommend changing it up and trying new things. I did low-sec piracy, wormholes, high-sec can-baiting, and even some suicide ganking, but I always swore against null-sec without any strong reason to do so. So far, I am happy I challenged and threw myself into a new environment. The people I fly with are friendly, and there's always content if I look for it. I love the relaxed environment, even though keeping track of activities in the corp, alliance, and coalition can be daunting at times. Seriously, so many discord groups and channels. I don't know how people keep up with this stuff.

First impressions

The first fleet I joined was Windrunner (WR) Tornadoes, which basically means you warp bounce a lot and take potshots at the enemy fleet from beyond the 100km range. It was quite fun. I imagine this hit-and-run requires quite a lot of skill in maintaining angles and distances. I have a lot of respect for FCs and the people who do it. For the rest of us grunts, pushing F1 and following aligns is not exactly the most challenging experience. However, at times, I still struggled to follow alignment points. Where the fuck is that ESS again? What the hell is an "ansi". And some other terminology and orientation objects with which I had to familiarize myself. I like the WR concept as it is high-risk. As it happened in my fleet, the FC warped us into the bubble, and the rest is history.

While I do enjoy WR fleets, I am not a big fan of the kiting meta in general. All ships "fight" at the 100km+ distance and try to snipe each other before Logi can react.

I start to see the pattern. The image above illustrates your run-of-the-mill fight: You chase around the enemy fleet, and if they are faster, you give up. Ships shoot each other 100km apart while  2 Scorpions jam from 200km+ behind the fleet. I just don't know about this. In my opinion, 100km should be reserved for battleship-sized guns, and all cruisers or even battle cruisers should be much closer. I even had a bloody Hecate snipe my interceptor from 100km. I mean, come on.

The other day, we went stabber roaming with the corp mates. I jump into a system and find this interesting sight.

A gate camp waiting 150km off with Warden sentries. I did consider if we could jump in, burn the other direction, and warp on them, but I had no cloaky scout with probes, and it didn't really feel like our 4 stabbers were a match for this setup. Overall, props to people for putting somewhat expensive ships on the line, but coming back to my original comment, I really dislike projecting DPS from such a large distance in anything smaller than a battleship. My personal take, you don't have to agree with it.

Let's also discuss ESS. On paper, I understand what CCP was going for, but in practice, it's a fighting location I am not too enthusiastic about. 

You can't use MWD inside and can't warp in the area as it's dead space. The attackers have a major positioning advantage, which is fine, but I have yet to see an exciting ESS fight. If you bring a bigger fleet, the enemy fleet simply warps out. There is no way to surprise in any way, such as a combat probe or bounce off a celestial. You always land in relation to the acceleration gate. I think they should perhaps remove the deadspace outside ESS and just leave it inside. But I haven't played long enough, so maybe others have the best fights on ESS. I need to join more fleets.

You can take a wormholer from a wormhole but can't take a wormhole from a wormholer. if there's no such saying, there should be. I occasionally jump into the wormhole space, looking for targets. Thankfully, I have some corpmates who do the same thing, which is very unusual for people living in null-sec, who are often times allergic to scanning. On one such trip, I got a ping of an ongoing mining activity.

We took a couple of ships and paid them a visit. No local, unexpected ganks and often close and personal fights. I am confident at some point, I will return to wormholes. However, for now, I want to learn more about null-sec PVP. So far, most fights have happened around the home area, but the ambition is to work on a setup that I could pilot to get good fights with only a few people in remote regions. I would like to find a combination of 2-4 ships that I could fly and have good engagements.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Exploration in null - Guristas edition, Part 2 - Engagement, Loot and Effort

I have settled down in my new null-sec home for the most part. During my limited play time, exploration has been my core activity. I believe I managed to try out every site the region has to offer. Here are my thoughts. I will simply point out good things and flaws in how I see it.

Relic/Data sites

Tl;DR: If you are a new player or someone, in general, looking to earn ISK from exploration activities, go to Null and do Relic sites. Travel directly or find a wormhole with a remote null-sec connection to bypass gate camps and do Relic sites. Cargo scan for efficiency. That's it; there is no need to read any further. I also recommend null over wormholes, as local gives a big advantage.

In all seriousness, I quickly found out that data sites are a complete waste of time. Just the other day, upon undocking, I found 2 relic sites that netted me below loot (minus obvious ammo and probes):

Granted, these were high-end sites with luck on my side, but after weeks of clearing data sites, not once did I get anywhere close to the loot drop I got here. I am sure someone has averages posted somewhere, so I won't bother with data analysis, but the imbalance is undeniable. In my humble opinion, the best data sites equal the worst relic sites. It is unfortunate, and while I understand the demand is player-driven for the most part, I can't help but feel there is some potential to re-adjust the loot tables and end product requirements to make the data/relic site running more rewarding (I read that high-sec has the opposite problem due to low t2 salvage). Also, WHY PARTLY CLEARED SITES DO NOT DESPAWN? The fact that people can cherry-pick valuable containers and leave with the site still showing active is the biggest design oversight of all.

Leaving the "total value" relic vs data topic aside. the lack of "jackpot" items makes them rather mundane. You always know you will not find anything out of the ordinary, and the loot overall probably doesn't differ all that much between high, low, and null sec, only the amount. Meaning you get the same shit, just less of it the higher the system security. I like to daydream how it would be amazing if relic and data sites had some unique, rare drops part of the loot table, but I guess that's where sleeper cache and ghost sites come in.

Overall, the majority of the loot that drops is unique and only obtainable via said sites, which is what I like to see. If more unique items were added to the loot tables tied to low/null, it would be a great addition.

Sleeper Caches

There are three types of sleeper caches: limited, standard, and superior. They spawn in the empire regardless of security status, which I think is great. I had a chance to do all three.

Limited - pretty simple and straightforward, only one room with some environmental damage that can be avoided/mitigated.
Standard - a bit more complex with one main room and a hidden room. Some important knowledge is required regarding alarms, but otherwise straightforward.
Superior - most complex, with most rooms that require a good understanding of what needs to be done.

My relationship with Sleeper Caches is a bit of a love/hate. During my first run, I was confused and scared, which was a good thing. I think the risk of losing your ship makes them great, where you are left with the choice to either put the expensive, tanky ship on the line, which can still die, or use a frigate that every slip up can result in death. And there are many such slip-ups! While I think Sleeper Caches are a little overengineered, the risks they pose are what I like to see in exploration content.

These sites are not new by any means. Therefore, the market has settled.  Overall, loot-wise, when benchmarked against null Relic sites, anything but Superior Caches feels underwhelming for the risk and effort required to run them. The storyline and polarized gun blueprint drops are a nice addition, too bad many of them are quite worthless. I never understood why most of "storyline" loot is subpar to faction and deadspace. I feel the stats of many items should be revisited to make them more appealing.

CCP sometimes makes strange design choices. Take the example of the Superior Sleeper Cache "The Archive" room. Specifically, the Nanoplastic Membrane and Self-regulating Machine Gears loot. This content is not new, so I would assume people would have found any "hidden" meaning, but nope. I couldn't find any use for these items. Intravenous Oscillation Fluid x3 is required to trigger the final event, and as far as I am aware, the other items you get are junk. WHY? If they indeed serve no purpose, the designer needs a good smack to the head. Or maybe he got smacked and wasn't able to finish coding the purpose for the remaining 2 item types.

Other than that, I like the increasing pressure of shock waves that makes me sweat and race against time to hack as many cans as I can. Initially, I used a cargo scanner to cherry-pick important cans, but I realized I could almost hack all cans available before the damage became too much.

Ghost Sites

Covert Research Facility, a.k.a. Ghost Sites, is my favorite exploration content, and I think it should be the gold standard for future exploration designs. It is simple, risky, and rewarding. You have to prioritize your hacking. Enemies will melt your face if you do not have a good tank or don't warp out fast enough before they arrive. The timer is unpredictable, so it's always a race against time. Drops unique implant blueprints that are rare enough to make you excited when you find one. Although I only find "Improved" sites, and sometimes overall loot can be less than a high-end relic site (even with cargo scanning and cherry-picking), it does have good payoff chances, so it is always worth doing them. Honestly, Ghost Sites win my "Best Design Exploration Content" award. There. Not much else to say. They really hit the mark.

Unrated Guristas Combat Sites

Now starts the "ugly" part. I feel the unrated combat sites are the legacy content that hasn't been touched since EVE's inception. I may be wrong, but it sure feels that way. The dark ages when someone duct-taped things together without too much thought and called it good enough. Let's see what we have, shall we?

This is one of the easier combat sites. The most challenging part is staying cap-stable while flying from one side to another. It starts innocently with the acceleration gate only 65km away.

Then you get one spawn 50km off, another 100km off, and finally, the reinforcement wave spawns 175km away.

But let's not forget the second room where the tower itself is roughly 200km away with a timed wave spawning 140km from the warp, which, to my understanding, serves no purpose as you need to destroy the tower to get the faction to spawn that can trigger an escalation. This whole site is bizarre. I really struggle to understand why NPC is placed so far away apart. Especially in the second pocket when they can just be ignored, and they are too far away to be any threat to you.

Overall, it's pretty straightforward. It has 2 locations. 1st location, you may have a faction spawn, which, once killed, may trigger a second stage. No weird distances to cover. You destroy Guristas Research Facility, which may trigger the final "boss," who will drop goodies if you are lucky.

Overall, I have nothing particularly negative to say about this expedition, apart from the fact that it's not clear which structure to shoot to trigger the waves, but that is a common theme with many escalation triggers.

You land in the middle of 3 hostile groups but can blitz the room pretty quickly by snipping the tower and taking the acceleration gate. This spawns an additional group of battleships and frigates that web and scram you, so there is a risk they will tackle you before you can warp out.

Blitzing is an interesting concept. It can be done right, or it can be lazy. In this case, I think it's more on the "done right" side. Simply the fact that I am presented with a choice of either playing safe and clearing hostiles before triggering a reinforcement wave or taking a risk and going straight for the trigger that can put my ship in danger. 

I would like to highlight a few things once I was reflecting on my experience. Playing EVE for a long time and checking EVE University wiki has become second nature, but if we pretended we had no such source and I was new to the game, I would have no idea what is the escalation trigger. There is basically no visual, text, or audio indication of what needs to be done. It would be nice if sites were designed so that it would be obvious what needs to be done.

The second room has a big station and a massive amount of tank.

Upon shooting it, it releases a high-damage smart bomb with a range of 100km. It will nuke all your drones if you are not careful, as I found it the hard way. Also, a fun fact - it releases a smart bomb for each character that attacks it. So, if you have a fleet of 4 cruisers and attack it at the same time, there is a good chance everyone will die.

Overall, the site can be tanked in an Ishtar without big problems. The commander that may or may not spawn will for sure not give you anything worthwhile. At least, that has been my general experience. I am not even sure I am isk positive with this site due to the amount of drones I lost while multiboxing. Nuked 3 sets of Wasps more times than I could count.

But we run these sites for the escalations, right?

The first 3 rooms are pretty straightforward and can be completed quickly. Warp in, snipe the commander, collect garbage loot, and go to the next location.

If you are lucky, you will get to the final stage, the 4th room. The last room, unlike until now, has timed spawns. No way to blitz through. You just have to kill stuff and wait for the final boss to arrive. In this case - Hanuo Wako.

The problem with escalations is that they can take you anywhere. If you are lucky, the expedition will be in a friendly territory or in a hostile one. To finish Pirate's Path escalation, I had situations where I had to travel to a hostile territory with no stations. I use ~720 dps. The Maze fit Proteus for this purpose. It is pimped to tank excessive damage. Just like The Maze, Pirate's Path also does considerable damage if you focus on "blitzing" and shooting commanders as they spawn, which still takes considerable time as spawns are timed. The Hano Wako took a long time to kill. 700 DPS seems to be just above the threshold to break his tank. As mentioned, I ran this escalation several times, and each time, I got jack shit from it. I know it's RNG and all, BUT multi-stage escalations, in general, SHOULD give SOMETHING. Unlike standard DED sites, you have so many stages to get lucky: get initial escalation and get continuous escalations with each room. Not to mention, you are often forced to go many jumps away to complete them. Escalations should have a UNIQUE loot pool to them. They should be exciting, and people should be willing to risk shiny ships in hostile spaces to run them. As it is now, the unrated combat sites are often skipped by explorers, as I see multiple days go by with signatures still active. I am not surprised. I think many people get complacent and just accept these things as they are. While the new content is good and exciting, CCP should consider some Life Cycle Management practices for existing content. Either remove obsolete content or make adjustments to make it new and refreshing. Hacking sites went through numerous iterations until they landed in a hacking mini-game, which I think is a great implementation compared to the old system. I wish they revisited combat sites across the board someday, too.

In the next part, I will continue to review the remaining combat sites. Thanks for sticking around.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Exploration in null - Guristas edition, Part 1 - Introduction

Exploration was the first activity I engaged in when I joined EVE a decade and a half ago. I still remember scanning and exploring the vast space in my trusty Imicus. Everything back then felt unknown, scary and exciting. Safe to say, exploration is the PVE activity closest to my heart, and it is probably no surprise my career path took to wormholes where scanning and exploring are at their core. Therefore, I will speak from the position of passion while describing my exploration experience in null-sec. I hope the criticism of some parts will not be mistaken for complaining but rather taken as a missed opportunity for what "it" could have been or still be.

Home area

It is probably no secret that TEST & friends live in Deklein. The first thing I learned was that each Alliance have its own space carved out, and you are not allowed to run any anomalies or exploration sites outside defined borders, with few exceptions, such as events and escalations. For TEST, that means an area for a total of 19 systems. When I first heard this, I wondered how such a big alliance with so many members fits in this small area. I did not follow null-sec politics, but from what I understand, the alliance went through some dramatic shifts and is not what it used to be in terms of size. While many people might find the current state "disappointing", for me, who comes from wormholes, the smaller, the better. I joined the corp and not the alliance anyway. It just happened to be TEST, and it could have been anything else. One thing I learned about null-sec residents was that most hate scanning. The majority of people run combat anomalies and mine to fund PVP. A small percentage focuses on exploration, meaning competition is not that bad. So, let's talk exploration.

Exploration toolset and philosophy

For the first few weeks, my approach to exploration was that of a vacuum cleaner. I did not care about isk/hour, total value, difficulty, or anything else. I would clear every site I could find, from low-end data sites to high-level DED combat complexes. It took me a few days to bring in all the tools, but I spared no expense. My philosophy is simple - throw money at the problem to minimize failure. For things like Ghost and sleeper sites, the question is not how I can escape intact before rats or the environment gets me, but how to tank it best. Difficult hacks with a risk of failing and exploding can? Can I buy my way out to negate that risk? What ship is needed to run 10/10 without much sweat? And so on... Here's how my setup currently looks:

  • Tengu - scanner & data/relic site runner (Alt)

Initially, I just used my trusty WH stalking Proteus with expendable implants. Despite rarely dying, I always went with the setup that in case I died, I would just shrug it off. Few implants to support scanning, but nothing crazy. My starter process was - to scan with my alt and run sites with my main. I soon found this to be inefficient. If I found a good Relic site and a combat site 5 jumps away, that was a lot of lost time travelling back and forth. The reason for using Proteus was the same as in WHs - have a tanky tackle ship for spontaneous targets. Worked really well in wormholes but does not work in Null. Mostly because no one but "blues" run sites, and any PVP target will be either a big fleet passing by or a cyno bait. Very rarely would you get an engageable small gang situation. Proteus would still work for day-tripping to wormholes, but they don't spawn that often and even if it did and I found targets, I realized one - my corp and probably alliance, in general, are allergic to wormholes, and two - all doctrine ships are kity stuff that works well in null, but will be difficult to utilize in WHs which requires more tanky setups. Plus, no armoured doctrine exists, meaning no armour reps, and the universe will die before I exchange my trusty cloaky tackle Proteus for anything else when it comes to stalking.

So, I made the decision to park my favourite ship in favour of a Tengu, purely for exploration purposes. Now I scan and run all standard Relic/Data* sites and bring my main for specific Ghost/Sleeper or combat sites. I even added a Zeugma Integrated Analyzer and a full set of  Virtue implants for good measure.

Reasons for Tengu and not a covops ship are: 1) I feel safer as it is tankier and normally, hostiles don't assume it's for scanning/exploration. 2) I can still snipe and kill hostile exploration frigates I encounter.

  • Proteus for Ghost/Sleeper sites (Main)
Designed to tank Ghost sites and Superior/Standard Sleeper Caches. 
  • Proteus for The Maze & escalations (Main + 2 alts)
Pimped out for maximum tank against Guristas and specifically designed for clearing The Maze, which is a 10/10 DED combat site. It is also used to do escalations outside the home area as it can travel fit with an interdiction nullifier and covops cloak.
  • Ishtar for general combat sites (Main + 2 alts)
Ishtar was originally designed for anomaly runs but was adapted to run all exploration combat sites within the home area. It's cheap, tanky and boring, but gets the job done. I still can get ganked if I run into a fleet, but the intel channel and a scanner scout make that very unlikely. The only reason I use it instead of pimped Proteus is that I couldn't be arsed to swap between combat & travel fits. Also, I can buy 5 Ishtars for one Proteus, even if the risk is minimal. Not to mention, it makes me not worry about situations like if I get disconnected when tackled mid-site. I am sure there are Ishtar fits for The Maze, but I am allowed some excitement in my life, eh?
  • Proteus for WHs  (Alt)
While it mostly sits in the hangar, I still use it to explore wormholes when the region has few sites to run, and I have time to spare. I still need to bring the tools for WH ganking. The last thing I want is to find a couple of Marauders running sleeper sites, and my corp does not have anything beyond Stabber. I can call Alliance Fleet, but I have yet to build rapport and determine how that would work in practice. It would be simpler if I was in a big corp like Dreddit, but I am not, meaning I have to use Alliance comms and I can't really ping targets because I am not an FC. I still have some figuring out to do on the null-sec life.

In the next chapter, I will discuss my experience running specific sites. While some are as old as the game itself, many sites were new experiences to me, as funny as that sounds. So, the story will be from the perspective of a "new player" with a flavour of a bitter vet.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Playing EVE as a busy dad

It seems I can never win this game in the long term. Years can go by when I go on about my business without a second thought of EVE, but eventually, I end up launching the game.

This time was no different. I caught myself in the game for several evenings, spinning my ship in Jita or taking Deimos for a joyride and shooting high-sec anomalies. It's not like I have more time on my hands. I started winning EVE after my first child, now a toddler, was born. But as if the suffering was not enough, we added another one to the mix. So here I am, spinning a ship while trying to deal with a crying 2-month-old and a constant attention-seeking toddler. Maybe I launched this game to remind myself of the heydays of my early twenties when I had no responsibilities and a lot of time on my hands. However, at best, I only have a few undisturbed hours in the evening.

So what can I do with those few hours in EVE? Probably not much, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. So what are my options? Certainly, wormhole stalking is still an option. There are a few concerns, however. For one thing, I wasn't sure what my setup should look like after the latest Marauders' buff, which is old news by now, but it's time I stopped actively playing. Maybe Leshak + 2 Nestors would be enough to kill without losses, something like 1-2 Marauders; maybe it wouldn't. If the enemy focuses on a Nestor, that's only 2 large reps received from another one, which sounds quite low. I was never too good at theory crafting and always relied on a hunch more than actual number crunching in Pyfa. 

There's always an option of joining a corp. Should I continue the status quo and go for WH Corp? Should I get back to my early roots and dabble in low-sec piracy? Or should I try null-sec? Despite having an account that is almost 14 years old, I never lived in null. Big empires and big fleet battles never attracted me all that much. But "never having lived in null" is a strange checkbox to leave unchecked for an account as old as mine. I decided to try it at least once.

Finding a new home

While looking for a corp, one requirement I had was a chill, mature corp with an RL comes first attitude. It turns out almost every corp in the recruitment thread emphasizes this. I guess a big portion of the EVE player base grew old. So, I browsed through some recruitment ads and decided to join NARVI, an industry-focused corp with flavours of PVE/PVP, which is part of a bigger alliance (Test Alliance Please Ignore). PVE was kind of my aim as I wanted to relax, do my thing, and be able to go AFK on a moment's notice. And if there is an itch for PVP, I am sure these big alliances always have fleets up and running. The more I thought about it, the more I got excited. Let's see how this null-sec life will treat me.


I recently changed jobs in real life and had to go through the onboarding process at my new organization. It was less of a hassle than joining a corp under TEST. I am no stranger to ESI checks and onboarding checklists, but having only been to small and medium-sized corporations, joining a big alliance takes the whole onboarding process to the next level. I understand there are reasons for every step, so I don't disagree or agree, but I will simply describe my experience.

All characters in the auth tool
Regardless of whether they will join TEST, every account and character must be added to the auth tool. I have 7 accounts, many of which have 3 characters. Some of them are dormant, and some are traders who rarely undock. I guess this problem is unique to players with many accounts, but it was a pain. It's also the first time anyone asked ESI access to out-of-corp characters, but I get it. Spies everywhere, can't be too careful.

No dual corps are allowed
This rule is probably the one I really wasn't sold on. During my time, I had a few alt corps setups to help me manage my affairs. The fact that every non-TEST character had to be in NPC corp was one of the bigger pills to swallow made me question if I was making the right decision. I also fail to see the reasoning behind it since I give ESI access to alts anyway.

Onboarding documentation
Finally, officially joining the corp/alliance, it was time to get myself familiar with new member guidelines. And there is a lot to process. Read about different services, authentication and communication setups, alliance and coalition rules, coalition services and authentication. Thankfully I could skip new EVE player topics, such as doctrine training skill plans. In contrast, my previous experience upon joining a corp was an EVE email with few paragraphs and several doctrine ships outlined, which I could go through in 10 minutes.

First impressions

It has been over a couple of weeks since I have moved to null. I have mostly been doing PVE while jumping on occasional fleet here and there. I will write a dedicated PVE post that talks mostly about the state of exploration from my perspective. I have a lot to say on that matter. So what are ISK making opportunities in null? I list them below and offer my view on it.
  • Ratting - mostly refers to shooting NPCs in an anomaly, but can also be belt ratting. It seems anomalies are the go-to #1 activity for the majority of null-sec residents. Many opt in for an AFK-style ratting with a drone boat, usually Ishtar. Others go for more engaging methods and use Battleships with active targeting for faster clearing. I have tried Ishtar ratting exactly once, and it was enough to understand it is not for me. While it offers a set-and-forget option, you still need to keep an eye on the local, and if you multi-box, you still need to keep an eye on each client. Going for the same site with multiple drone boats is inefficient because some multiple ships distract rats, who are more inclined to switch aggro on drones; therefore, 1 drone boat per site is recommended. 
  • Mining - is probably one of the most relaxing activities. Even though I never really considered it personally, I see the value of dabbling in manufacturing. While ISK/hour may not be great, it can save you from the logistical nightmare of importing minerals.
  • Exploration - this has been my go-to activity. It fits me perfectly. I like scanning, and I am efficient at it. The variance of different sites makes it somewhat interesting, and I would argue on average it pays better than AFK-Ishtar in anomalies.
  • Industry - the thought of producing stuff has always intrigued me. I have always wanted to do some serious manufacturing operations, but I was never able to start them. I thought this time could be different. I had a lot of faction/storyline/t2 module and rig blueprints that I would like to use for manufacturing rather than selling but trying to estimate the profit, plan production and materials import made this such a huge headache that I put any manufacturing plans on hold. For example, I considered using the booster blueprints that have been collecting dust for a long time

Unfortunately, no gas sites spawn in the area, and I would need a 776k volume shipped just for Malachite Cytoserocin. Napkin math says I could expect 8 billion in profit, but 2 billion alone would be spent just for the alliance freight services. Realistically, the profit would probably be even less than that. In the end, if I did it, it would not be for ISK, but for an activity itself. The problem is the planning and calculation. I have yet to find a good tool that would let me select a container of blueprints and give me a nice summary of materials to import. In most tools I looked at, I have to manually add each blueprint, and going through hundreds of blueprints IS exhaustive. It works easy if you have to produce 1 thing 100 times, but good luck trying to produce 100 different things one time. 
  • Freight & Market - this is another area I am excited about. One of the attractions of joining a null-sec bloc was to seed the markets. To do that, however, you have to have a Jump Freighter and a couple of alts. It is not a problem in itself, but the last freighting I did was over 10 years ago when I lived in null-sec. Trying to get up to speed and reading about Lance dreads disabling gates scares the hell out of me. Then, I get reminded of the importance of creating a route, picking stations, and creating bookmarks. Not to mention tons of strict alliance rules for your alts. I park this idea again as I only have a couple of hours to spare, and just the amount of effort required to get started reminds me why I sold my Jump Freighter in the first place. I know complexity is EVE's trademark, and knowing specific mechanics is a big part of it, but things like station docking ranges or kick-out stations, in my opinion, are legacy artefacts and don't have a place in a modern game. I put it in the same bucket of features like 24-hour limited training queues (remember those?) or days when there were no safety buttons, and suspect/aggro timmer was invisible (shooting wrecks in HS to extend the timer, lol). Not everyone may see this way, but in my opinion, there is good complexity, and then there is bad. Ideally, I should not need to read a 3rd party 10-page manual to do a straightforward activity in EVE.
Alright, let's talk PVP. Ok, in all honesty, it is a bit early. I have only been playing for a couple of weeks, and most of my time was spent on settling in, moving in ships and doing carebear activities. I participated in a few fleets, and while considered small by null-sec standards, these fights were bigger than what I normally engage in during my time in wormholes. In all honestly, I do not know how FCs can process information on such a scale. I had trouble managing my overview with so many ships on a grid. If not for broadcast, I couldn't find a target if just called by name. Anyway, I look forward to engaging in PVP more with time and will write about my experience in more detail in follow-up posts.