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Now that you know everything you need to fit and fly ships, while also finding and fliting off with loot, it’s time to protect your investments and make the most of your ISK. That’s the point of getting into and out of so many white-knuckle situations, right?
The Things You Own…
When you start out with exploration, you’re going to be obsessed with saving your loot. You’ll be earning a few million ISK at a time in a ship that’s only worth 500k at best. Throwing stuff out will seem like an absolute waste.
But after completing a few data sites, or ninja salvaging missions, or just stumbling on a couple abandoned sentry drones, you’ll find your cargo hold doesn’t store nearly as much as you anticipated. You will frequently be sitting on 197/200 m^3 of space, and you’ll have to decide if it’s time to head back to market or jettison the “cheap” stuff and soldier on.
If you have a mobile depot on you or nearby, this is an easy choice to make. Just make a stop to it, offload all your loot, and continue exploring. Easy peasy. But if you’re 50 jumps from home with no stations or safe spots for storage, I’d recommend you throw out everything larger than a data core. Sort your inventory by volume (usually the rightmost column) and simply jettison all the armor blocks, component wires, and Johnson rods cluttering up your hold. You might lose a million ISK or two, but you’ll be opening up space for the next half a billion in relic loot and blueprints.
It’s not a waste; you’re simply maximizing your time. By trashing the “low” value items, you reduce the total number of trips you have to make into/out of nullsec, thereby making your overall journey safer, shorter, and more profitable per hour spent. You’re also further justifying the cost of your ship; the more expensive the loot you return each time, the fewer trips you need to “pay for” your vessel and fittings. This way you can easily stomach the expense of an Astero, Stratios, or T3 cruiser much earlier than you might otherwise.
This Little Piggy Went to Market
When you do decide to head back to hisec with your goods, don’t toy around. Head straight to a major trade hub like Jita 4-4, Amarr prime, or any of those other systems I’m too lazy to spell. These systems will offer you relatively high prices for your wares, plus they’ll carry pretty much everything you’d need for yourself: skill books, rigs, and rare implants. Just don’t dawdle on docking or undocking. Even in high security space, there are plenty of mathematicians who have figured out that suicide ganking explorers can often pay out several orders of magnitude.
I wouldn’t spend a lot of time playing the markets, either. Quickly sell your stuff for the highest buy price or halfway between the buy/sell disparity and move on with your life. Every minute you spend in station is a minute you’re not finding more things to steal.
When it comes to blueprint copies, you’ll need to create contracts to sell those. We could write an entire guide on contract underwriting, but suffice it to say you should generally choose “Find in contracts” off the right-click menu of a BPC and price accordingly from there.
You will soon learn that 90% of blueprints are worthless, with only T2 and faction varieties fetching prices past 20 million. As such, you’ll end up with dozens, if not hundreds, of BPCs for crappy parts nobody wants, each valued at less than 15 million. What I’d recommend is to take the Costco approach. Group a bunch of different, equally shitty BPCs into one contract and push it for 50-75% of the at-face total value. So if you’ve got say 12 BPCs each “worth” around 9 million ISK, throw them together and ask for about 70 million. You are almost certain to pick up a bargain-hunter buyer.
Depending on your standings with various corporations, alliances, and individuals, you can also make some cash brokering information. Save the locations of lucrative combat sites you don’t want to/can’t complete, and offer them to nullsec ratters who’d kill for an easy escalation. The concept is pretty simple, but the execution will depend completely on your real-life skills of persuasion. You’ll need to scan the sites down, find a buyer (who speaks your language), settle on a price, and convince him to trust that your bookmark leads to riches, not an elaborate trap.
If you’re not feeling particularly nice, you could actually set an elaborate trap. Either show up to the combat site in your PVP-fitted cruiser, or get your corpmates to handle the dirty work for you. This business model won’t attract a lot of repeat customers, but your killboard will appreciate it.
If you want to be a different kind of asshole, you can always go with extortion. Fly around scanning down POSes, jump bridges, and capital fleets, then demand a ransom in exchange for keeping your mouth shut. You’ll need to have pretty good knowledge of the political landscape of local space, but it’s pretty easy money. Be prepared to make good on your promises, of course, and sell that intel to an opposing faction if your “customers” don’t decide to pay up.
Taking What Isn’t Yours
Always idolized Aladdin, Arsene Lupin, or Carmen Sandiego? Perhaps a lucrative career in stealing other peoples’ crap is right for you. This is a lot trickier, since it usually involves putting yourself at significant risk, but it’s also a lot more fun than camping a system for days hoping to make a buck on possibly worthless intel.
The lowest form of theft would be outright wreck looting, usually in high and low sec. Wherever you see a filled-in triangle, there’s an opportunity to simply stroll up, peek inside, and take whatever you want. Usually it’ll just be some ammunition, but sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot in expensive T2 fittings. The important thing to remember here is that looting a wreck or container you don’t own (it’ll be yellow) will result in a 15 minute suspect alert that will give everyone everywhere the right to kill you. Now, with your cloaking device and some safe points, that’s basically a non-issue, but you’ll still need to jump off as soon as you grab the goods. After all, it’s entirely possible that whoever created that wreck is waiting around to give it company.
A step up from this would be ninja salvaging/looting, where you use combat probes to scan down a player who’s actively engaged in a mission and take all of her wrecks and/or loot. Note that salvaging wrecks isn’t a criminal activity, whereas looting wrecks is (as described above). That doesn’t mean a player won’t shoot you for salvaging her stuff, nor does it mean a player will shoot you for nabbing loot. It’s simply a warning to keep in mind – the level of nefariousness you engage in is up to you. I guess if you were really evil, you could fit your ship for PvP and destroy the mission-runner after he opens fire on your defenseless little boat.
If you feel like making a more regular income through thievery, you could try your hand at mobile siphon units. These deployable structures sit 30 to 50 km outside a POS and passively steal moon goo as it is extracted. Placing one of these is relatively easy in a covert ops ship (make sure you warp out before POS guns get a lock on you), but retrieving the loot on a daily basis may not be so simple. You’ll have to pray your siphon isn’t detected and destroyed by the POS owners, and you’ll also need to regularly nab loot without raising long-term suspicions. Good luck there.
The rarest, but potentially highest-earning method of stealing would be encounter surveillance systems (ESS). To make a long story short, these are deployable structures placed in null sec that collect a portion of all bounties earned in the system while active. ESS show up automatically in the overview, so you’ll know if one’s around the instant you enter a system.
Normally these structures can be used by friendlies to slowly increase and redistribute bounties, but since they can be accessed by anyone, you can open them up and outright steal the millions and millions of ISK within.
Be careful, though! There are certainly a lot of things to worry about:
- Warping to an ESS, even cloaked, will create an chat alert warning everyone in local
- The ESS itself has a small warp bubble around it, making infiltration/exfiltration dangerous
- Many players deploy their ESS units near large swarms of NPCs as an extra deterrent
- Accessing an ESS, even to look at its contents, will also create a local chat alert
- Stealing from an ESS is not instant; it takes several minutes, during which you are vulnerable
For all these reasons, you should obviously never engage an ESS while players are in local. Doing so is basically begging for a fight, and given the stakes you can bet the fleet that arrives to defend the ESS is more than capable of demolishing your solo frigate or cruiser. If you happen to find an ESS in an empty system, warp to it cloaked (in case rats are waiting for you) and make sure the coast is clear. Access the can from about 3,000 m (so you can cloak if locals show up) and perform your pilfering as fast as possible. Plan an escape route, keep an eye on chat and d-scan, and make off with the goods!
Paying the Iron Price
All this time you’ve been flying around New Eden, you’ve probably spent a lot of time trying not to get ganked by a random space pirate. You’d lose your ship, your dignity, and all the millions and millions of loot you’ve uncovered in your travels. But what if you were the greedy space pirate?
I’m certainly not going to write up an entire PvP guide within this piece, but it should become obvious to anyone who’s explored for a while that killing another explorer wouldn’t be hard, especially with the right ships: Imicus, Astero, Stratios, T3 Cruiser.
Relying primarily on small, fast drones, any of these vessels would be more than capable of cutting up your average exploration ship. Just by sitting cloaked in a data or relic site, you can simply wait for your target to show up, move into range as she approaches a can, and launch your assault as your victim is distracted by the nearly full-screen hacking sequence. Depending on how lucky you get, you might not even need a warp scrambler.
Usually, the worst case scenario is that your intended murder-ee zooms off the second you uncloak. The best case scenario is that you nab an entire cargo hold’s worth of blueprints and salvage parts for easy ISK. Either way, it’s fun playing predator instead of prey for once!
If there is one lesson I hope this guide has taught you, it’s that the true spirit of exploration thrives only at the narrow boundary between victory and tragedy.
Your greatest moments in EVE Online won’t be the times you routinely haul loot into Jita, even when you make a pretty penny. They will instead be the heart-stopping seconds of panic as you jump into a gatecamp. The thrill of somehow completing a hack with one coherence remaining. The relief and disbelief of warping out of a Ghost Site seconds before it implodes.
So when your instincts warn you to turn back before it’s too late, ignore them. When the bittervets advise you to stay out of hostile regions of nullsec, press forward. When every fight or flight response you have is triggering at once, dive deeper. And when you think you couldn’t possibly do something dumber than last time, find a way to prove yourself wrong.
See you out there,
Chance Ravinne o7
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