Don’t miss out! This is just one chapter of our full EVE Online Exploration guide.
One of the great things about exploration is that it’s extremely light in skill requirements. In as little as two weeks you could have the bare minimum necessary for poking out into the darker regions of space, and in just two months you’ll have everything you need to easily PLEX one or more accounts.
It’s no wonder then that exploration is hugely appealing to both new players and vets looking for a fresh start in another field. And while hacking isn’t particularly useful in other ISK-generating activities, your investments in scanning, navigation, and covert operations can all be put to good use later in your EVE career.
Let’s take a peek at the minimum and target skills you’ll need to cut it in deep space. Note that all training times are estimates based on a player without neural remapping or implants (though this is covered near the end of the chapter).
If you can’t find cosmic signatures, enemy ships, or structures, you’re not exactly gonna be Christopher fucking Columbus. Getting scan skills to a decent level should be one of your first goals, because the ability to scan quickly and accurately will be your main source of ISK, intelligence, and victims.
Astrometrics (minimum III, target IV): With every level of astrometrics, your probes become more accurate, less time-consuming, and better able to detect even tiny signatures. In half a day you can get this high enough (level III) to handle most hi-sec sites, but level IV will set you up to train all of the probe scanning secondary skills: astrometric acquisition, pinpointing, and rangefinding.
Each of these skills modifies just one of the facets normally boosted by regular astrometrics, but they also take 100x less time to train to level I than getting the parent ability from IV to V. As such, I highly advise against training astrometrics to V until you’ve gotten all its child-skills to III.
Astrometrics V only unlocks jump portal generation and a bunch of probe launchers that aren’t even that good, so don’t feel like you’re missing out.
Astrometric acquisition, pinpointing, rangefinding (minimum II, target III): With just three hours of training and a single point in each of these abilities, you’ll have the same scanning power as Astrometrics V. Level II will also unlock their respective mid slot scan array modules, allowing you to further cut scan time (acquisition), deviation (pinpointing) or probe strength (rangefinding).
After III, the training times for these skills gets absolutely stupid – for instance rangefinding V takes 39 days! Additionally, by the time you can equip the T2 versions of these abilities’ scan arrays, your scanning will be so good you probably won’t even need them. If you feel compelled to train any of these past III, go with astrometric acquisition since it’ll save you exploration time in the long run.
Archaeology (minimum III, target V): Relic sites are, as of this writing, one of the most lucrative sources of loot in EVE Online. The best nullsec signatures can be worth more than 50 million ISK, not to mention wormhole locations or ghost site anomalies. Training this skill to its max will be an investment in your career that pays itself over in Scrooge McDuck levels of wealth. Feel free to name your mobile depot The Money Bin.
While you only technically need archaeology at level I to hack relic containers, doing so will result in a huge failure rate and only occasional, lucky wins. You simply cannot underestimate the importance of virus strength and coherence. Every level of archaeology will drastically bolster your chances of success by indirectly reducing damage taken (via virus strength) and giving you more leeway to make mistakes (virus coherence).
With archaeology at V and a relic analyzer II equipped, you should be able to hack any relic container with a 95%+ success rate. This of course assumes you’re actually good at the minigame, but that’s what the later chapters of this guide are for!
If you want a guideline, here’s what I’d recommend: train archaeology to at least III while you’re still in empire space. Once you’ve moved your operations to nullsec, make sure it’s at IV. After you’ve gotten a feel for what you’re doing and you’ve successfully made a few trips in and out of nullsec, grind to level V.
Hacking (minimum III, target IV): Almost all of my notes about archaeology will directly transfer here, with the caveat that data sites are generally less valuable than their relic relatives. With that in mind, you’ve got better things to do than spend two weeks training hacking to V. Just be extra careful when cracking difficult cans and remind yourself the real moolah is in archaeology.
Survey (minimum III, target III): There’s not much to say about this skill. You’ll need it at level III in order to unlock the more valuable archaeology ability while incidentally unlocking a handful of moon scanning probes. The bonus to cargo scanning is great, but you probably won’t even notice the difference. Don’t bother training this past III unless you spend a significant amount of time deploying mobile siphon units.
Spaceship Command and Related Skills
Early on in your exploration career, you should decide (hopefully with the help of chapter one of this guide) which ships you’d like to end up using after you “graduate” from T1 frigates. Since the basic requirements speak for themselves, I’ll keep this brief.
T2 covert ops ships, simply train your desired frigate skill to level V. This is a nice path because you’ll be buffing your T1 frigate during your entire progression to the next tier. Keep in mind, however, that scan bonuses on T2 ships are based on your covert ops level, so until you get it to IV or V, your T1 ship will be better at finding (though not necessarily navigating to) cosmic signatures.
For Sisters of EVE ships, you need both Gallente and Amarr frigate III (Astero) or cruiser II (Stratios) as a bare minimum. But unlike T1 and T2 scanboats, these ships’ probe bonuses are locked at +37.5%, so they’ll be fully powered in that regard the second you can fly them.
On both ships, the Amarr command bonus offers 4% resist all to armor per level, so it can never hurt boosting it up – every tick makes you that much harder to kill. The Gallente bonus increases drone hitpoints on the Astero; drone hitpoints and damage on the Stratios. This half of traiting is less useful if you’re not immediately pursuing combat activities. Either way you might as well get both to one level past the minimum (Astero: IV, Stratios: III).
I recommend you choose a secondary Gallente or Amarr path beyond SOE ships (T2 covops, T2 stealth bomber, T3 strategic cruiser) and skill in that direction after you’ve reached your other training goals. So if you’d ultimately like to fly a Legion after your Stratios, ditch Gallente cruiser at III and push Amarr cruiser to V.
For T3 (strategic) cruisers, you don’t really have any options. You’ll be forced to train racial cruiser V, mechanics V, CPU management V, power grid management V, navigation V, and a weapons system V. This doesn’t include your strategic cruiser skill level, your subsystem skill levels, or all the other crap you’re gonna need.
The good news is that most of those level V skills benefit a huge range of ships. There’s never a time when you won’t want more CPU or better speed or stronger armor. Get these skills to IV early on, then master your scanning and racial abilities, then come back to push these puppies to V.
Scan skills will set you up to make tons of ISK. Command skills let you fly the hulls you need. Navigation skills, while not a strict requirement, will save you time and keep you alive.
Acceleration control (minimum II, target III): Put a few hours into this skill and you’ll shave many more off your travels in the long run. This MWD/AB booster doesn’t unlock anything else, so don’t feel compelled to max it out any time soon.
Afterburner (minimum III, target IV): Most of the time you won’t be using an afterburner, but you need this at III to unlock evasive maneuvering and its associated microwarp drives. The train to IV isn’t long either, and permanently opens you up to T2 afterburners for your non-exploration activities.
Cynosural field theory (optional): The value of training cynos is based solely on your corporation and its goals. If your crew needs cynos lit, it can’t hurt to get this to level III. If they really need evil cynos lit, having covert cynosural abilities (unlocked at regular cyno level V) will make you a very valuable bastard.
Evasive maneuvering (minimum III, target V): Your ship’s agility, paired with its cloaking device, is one of the only things keeping it alive in hostile space. The faster it aligns, the more likely it’ll be you escape deadly scenarios. And since evasive maneuvering benefits every hull in the game, you might as well (eventually) max it out.
Fuel conservation (optional): Only train this skill if you’re routinely using afterburners for combat purposes. And even then, don’t bother pushing this past level III as it doesn’t unlock anything else.
High speed maneuvering (minimum III, target IV): You’ll need this to use MWDs, and you’ll immediately notice MWDs burn though capacitor fast. Getting this to III will significantly cut the costs of operating the associated modules, while also making T2 MWDs available for your frigates. Once you move on to cruisers you can push this skill to IV – level V is probably too onerous a train.
Navigation (minimum III, target V): As with agility, ship speed is something that will help you out in every field from exploration to combat to mining to scamming (hey, you’ve gotta escape your pissed-off “customers” somehow, right?). You don’t need to max this skill early on, but definitely make it a long-term goal.
Warp drive operation (minimum II, target IV): A lot of people, even multiyear veterans, overlook this skill because its benefit is not immediately clear. But explorers will spend a lot more time warping around than the average player will, so slashing warp cap costs is relevant. Eventually bringing this to IV will also allow you to use every variation of warp core stabilizer, helping you better escape would-be killers.
Other Important Skills
Cloaking (minimum IV, target IV): You absolutely need cloaking IV both for using the covert ops cloaking device and to reduce your re-cloaking delay to a manageable level. You do not need cloaking V ever, and other players will publicly laugh at you for training it.
Rigging and astronautics rigging (minimum I, target IV): Required to mount important exploration rigs. Level IV will unlock tons of T2 variants for both exploration and general piloting use.
Salvaging and salvage drone operation (minimum II, target III): Whether you immediately plan to salvage or not, exploration will put you in a much better position to profit from scrap than many other professions. You might as well be ready to answer the door when opportunity knocks.
All drone skills (optional): For T1 frigates, it’s fine to meet the minimum requirements to field three ECM or salvage drones. If you’re planning to move onto an Astero or Stratios afterwards, you should plan to invest heavily in the primary drone skill, as well as scout drone operation, drone interfacing, and pretty much every support skill. This is a long-train tech tree that will mirror the time you put into scanning and navigation skills.
Anchoring (minimum I, target II): At the bare minimum, you’ll be able to use a mobile depot – an indispensable tool (as described in chapter two). Then at level II, you can drop siphon units, warp disruptors, and encounter surveillance systems. Either way, it’s a super short train, and there’s no real reason to go past II for exploration purposes.
Hull upgrades, mechanics, and shield management (minimum III, target V): All of these skills bolster your vessel’s survivability by a significant margin. You won’t generally need them higher than III early on, but if you intend to try combat or you plan to play EVE Online for more than two months, they’re a solid investment for every ship type.
CPU management (minimum III, target V): Cloaking devices, probe launchers, scan arrays, and analyzers all use up a ton of CPU, so slowly maxing out this skill will make fitting a hell of a lot easier (though it also raises your invisible nerdiness attribute). This will literally be the difference between a core and expanded probe launcher on many ships, or the dividing line between having to waste a low slot for a secondary processor just to squeak a MWD onto your hull.
Power grid management (minimum III, target IV): One area you’re not likely to be hurting during exploration fitting is power grid. Yeah, this is a good investment for long-term EVE fitting, but for now it’s basically pointless.
Thermodynamics (minimum I, target III): With this, you’ll gain the ability to overheat and enhance your active modules, similarly to how applying fire to an animal makes it jump farther. An overheated MWD could be the difference between life and death, so skipping this option could cost you.
Cybernetics (minimum I, target IV): If you’re not using implants, you’re doing it wrong (more on that below), and you should be plugging in at least two +3 mods as soon as you’ve got the ISK for it. Attribute implants will drastically cut training times on skill progression, and time is one of the few things in EVE that ISK can’t normally buy. Once you’ve amassed a small fortune, splurge on a set of standard +4 implants to watch your skill queue fly by. I know tons of players swear by +5 sets, but exploring is dangerous business, so you may wish to think twice before risking a billion+ ISK pod.
While there are already plenty of skills to worry about in this chapter, here are a few more to consider. They’re not must-haves by any means, but can make the exciting life of an explorer a little easier.
- Armor and shield skills will help you with surviving combat or ghost sites
- Informorph psychology will give you the ability to use jump clones for fun and profit
- Planet management skills give you the option of farming celestials you find for easy ISK
- Targeting skills, including racial skills, will speed up hacking and aid in PVP encounters
- Every damn trade skill will fatten your profit margins (unless you’re not selling your own loot)
Attributes and Implants
If you’re not already aware of this, the time it takes for you to train a skill is directly dependent on your character’s attributes (memory, perception, intelligence, willpower, animal magnetism). Each skill in the game has a primary and secondary attribute affinity, so having your points aligned correctly can shave minutes, hours, or days off your training queue. You can’t choose or roll these values during character creation – they’re only modifiable via neural remaps and cybernetic implants.
In general, I’d advise against a neural remap for new players. You’re going to need a lot of random skills trained to around level III, so lopsiding your brain balance early on won’t really help you. If you decide to commit to maximizing your scan skills, however, bumping intelligence and memory will cut the most time off your training. From there, you might want to work on drone skills, since they’re also boosted by the memory attribute.
As for implants, there are two kinds. Attribute-enchancing implants fit into slots 1-5 of your noggin, while skill hardwiring implants plug into sections 6-10 of your um… well, I’m not really sure how they fit in your brain. Probably with a lot of screws.
Anyway, I’ve already covered attribute implants in the cybernetics skill section above – you should probably fit the highest mods you can – so here are some picks for your other cortex. If you can’t afford anything here, look for a cheaper version, but don’t really sweat it. None of these plugs are strictly necessary for solid exploration.
Slot 6 – Eifyr and Co “Rogue” Warp Drive Speed WS-60X: All of the ship-quickening power of a hyperspatial rig, none of the calibration or CPU loss. Buy whichever model fits your budget.
Slot 7 – Eifyr and Co “Rogue” Evasive Maneuvering EM-70X: Even a tiny boost to your ship’s agility can greatly affect whether or not you align in time to escape certain death. Again, match the X to our ISK.
Slot 8 – Poteque “Prospector” Astrometric Rangefinding AR-80X: More probe strength is always good. Even the cheapest version of this implant gives half the bonus of an AR skill level, so feel free to skimp.
Slot 9 – Poteque “Prospector” Archaeology AC-905: A +5 bonus to relic site virus coherence isn’t much, but those times you fail a hack one click too early can convince you otherwise.
Slot 10: With the removal of loot can “spew” there’s nothing I’d really recommend in this implant slot. If you’d like to boost your armor hitpoints there’s an option for that, but leaving this empty is also fine.
As with all implants, you must carefully balance the benefit you’ll gain versus the risk of flying around with millions or billions of ISK drilled into your skull. If you get podded, that money’s going down the drain. And if your ship is destroyed deep in nullsec or wormhole space, your capsule is gonna have a target on it the size of an Amarrian ego.
Congratulations, you somehow made it to the end of this article. At this point you’ve got a lot of skills to worry about training, though you should definitely focus on getting your scanning, navigation, and spaceship command abilities up to snuff before maxing anything out. Remember that in-game skills are only one part of the equation. Your real-life experience and aptitudes will contribute as much or more to your success. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what we’ll be honing in upcoming chapters of this exploration guide.
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