Tag Archives: Missions

Standings as the Gate to Mission Content

Missions are still the core of EVE Online‘s PvE offering.

A bunch of other PvE options have been added over the years, The Agency will even give you a hint about their existence.

The Agency giving you some options

But missions have remained a cornerstone of the game since I started.  Back in 2006 the tutorial of the time wrapped up and sent you off to your first mission agent, and when I ran the tutorial back over the summer, I was sent in the same direction.  CCP has since revised the tutorial again, simplifying it a bit further, but nothing about the direction in which it sends you has changed.

Just a few short steps now

If anything, the tutorial is far grown even more focused on teaching you how to run missions.  The combination of that and some key UI changes have tried to take the edge off of running missions.  You no longer have to fumble for the journal to bring up the mission to check details.  Little blue buttons now show up on your screen that let you undock, set destination, warp to sites, and make sure you know when the objective is complete.  Then the buttons let you set destination back to the agent, dock up, and even open the conversation with the agent so you can complete the mission.


I get it.  Missions are easy and fit the whole quest model that so many MMORPGs follow.  It is probably one of the more comprehensible aspects of New Eden to an outsider.  In a game where long term commitment requires finding your own goals and motivation, missions are a way to give players a short term objective.

But in some ways missions are still stuck back in 2006.  I am not just talking about the fact that the same missions I ran back then are still in circulation today.  One of the somewhat archaic aspects of missions is the whole standings aspect.

In 2006 that also made a lot of sense in the more limited scope of options we had back then.  Standings were used as a way to gate content, but also as a way to hold players back from jumping into the deep end of the mission pool too soon.  So you would run your level one missions with a given faction, building up reputation with your agent and their corporation.  You’d get a story line mission every 16 runs that would give you a bigger boost.

Then you would break into level 2 missions.  You needed to find a new agent and upgrade your ship for that.  Things were a bit tougher, you learned some more, you got your story line missions, you collected your rewards, and your standings slowly went up.

And standings going up had some benefits.  Higher standings would lower your costs for things like broker’s fees and ore processing and if you hung out long enough you could work your standings up high enough to install a jump clone in one of the NPC stations.

But that is all pretty much in the past.  You can buy and refine at player owned Upwell structures for lower costs and CCP simply remove the standings requirement for placing a jump clone years back.

So standings are mostly just a barrier to content and something of a slog to get past.

And slog it can be.  Back during the summer of skill points with the daily NPC kill reward I decided to take one alt and run a mission with him every day.  I had already dumped some skill points on him, so trained up to Connections III, which got him into level 2 missions pretty quickly.  But getting past level 2… well, it hasn’t happened yet.

Not even to level 3 missions yet

And while one a day doesn’t seem like a very diligent pace, missions quickly become tiresome so binging might lead to burnout. (There was, admittedly, a bit of back sliding when I let the account, which was one I used for cyno alts, lapse into Alpha state, pushing me back a step on Connections.)

Of course, I might not be the best test case.  I actually remember many of the missions from a decade or more back when I was running them for the first time for real.  And my fitting knowledge, while nothing to brag about, at least extends to getting a level 2 mission ship together that doesn’t have much to worry about.  So I was able to field a Dragoon with some drones that has been able to handle anything thrown at it so far, including that mission where you’re supposed to warp off in the face of long odds.

Dragoon in a mission space

The thing is, you cannot buy your way past missions.

I guess, as a long time player who ground up standings and skill points the old fashioned way, I should applaud that.  But if I were starting out and found that I could invest in a bit of PLEX for skill injectors, skill into a Myrmidon, join a null sec alliance, and turn my 200K ISK ticks into 12 million ISK ticks, I might very well be so inclined.

Not only is the pay better, but I would argue that running anomalies, dull though that might be, is no more dull than running missions.  Yes, you miss out on the thin veneer of story that a mission provide.  But nobody is actively hunting you if you’re stuck running level 2 missions either.  Having to keep an eye on local and the intel channel and occasionally having to run or fight when somebody lands on you… or holding out just long enough to get somebody in the standing fleet to show up and rescue you… that is a lot more exciting than any mission I’ve ever run.  But, like all PvP, it requires somebody else to show up, which means you can’t schedule it on demand or make it happen if you only have time to run a single anom or such.

So, as I kicked off my daily mission routine with the return of daily skill point rewards, I have been wondering if standings are necessarily a good gate for advancing mission levels.

Part of me thinks I had to do it back in the day, so why let the new players off the hook?  A more condescending part of my mind feels that this slow pace will keep new players from getting in over their head too quickly, while the true cynic in me feels that at least the slow standings grind keeps those solo mission runners subscribed to the game a bit longer before they max out their Raven skills and quit.  Maybe make the grind longer for that last case?

But the other part of me… the bigger part of me… sees the mission path for the dead end it is.  Why make it worse with grind?  And doubly so since some of the key rewards one got for grinding up standings have been removed or made somewhat obsolete.

I suppose the best thing to do would be to create a tutorial that didn’t simply train you to do missions and then point you towards them without much else in between.  But how to get there is an even bigger mess.  The open secret in the industry is that players mostly hate tutorials, and doubly so if they appear to be standing in the way of actually playing the game, so any tutorial has to be short and sweet and send players on their way in the minimum amount of time possible.  (This, by the way, is why the epic tutorial went away.  It was too long.)

How do you explain EVE Online if you have 30 minutes tops to do it?  You can’t even honestly sum up the game in 30 minutes without omitting critical details.  So CCP goes with the one thing they know they can get away with in that time and then hopes for the best.

And if that is where things are going to go, then I question whether or not standings have outlived their usefulness as a content gate.

Vengeance is Ours, and Veldspar Too

I dropped into EVE Online on Sunday afternoon, as previously noted, with a mind towards maybe knocking out a level 4 mission with my main and alt.  That is my plan for getting my alt better standing in Amarr space, letting my main grab level 4 missions and having him go along for the ride.

When I got on I saw Potshot on the corp channel.  He was out mining that now very lucrative veldspar.  I mentioned the mission idea and he was keen to come along.

I picked up a mission from a close-by Amarr Navy agent while he got himself in system and armed.

We drew the Sansha version of the mission Vengeance, which promised a nice reward and along with healthy bounties.

I got out the Raven while he drew a pair of Drakes.  We loaded up on missiles and headed out.  The right missiles too.  I remember a point in the past trying to do this mission solo with the wrong ammo and it being a royal pain.

The mission itself went well enough.  We had a bit of trouble in the first pocket when Potshot drew aggro from a battleship and had to warp out.  He let things go a bit too long and took some armor damage, which always costs to fix. (Unless you have the armor repair skill and the right module, of course.)

While running missions solo, I generally do not have to worry about who is getting shot, but I should probably figure out if there is a way to pull an NPC off of another ship.  Or is there no taunting in space? (Except on local, naturally.)

Once we wrapped up, we went back to check out all the asteroids that were scattered along the way.

It turns out that there is nearly 2 million units of veldspar, plus a smattering of scordite and omber in the various pockets of the mission.

The Raven and the two Drakes went back in the hangers and out came the mining and hauling ships.

Mining on the Sansha doorstep

Mining on the Sansha doorstep

I logged my alt on, invited him to the fleet, and had him fly his Hulk into the first pocket while I fetched the Mammoth to haul.  Potshot had his Covetor and Iteron V close to hand.

Iteron V hauling ore

Iteron V hauling ore

So we started burning down those asteroids.

Covetor with my Hulk and Mammoth in the background

Covetor with my Hulk and Mammoth in the background

Fortunately, the mission gives you quite a long time to complete it before the early bonus goes away.

We were able to harvest every last unit of veldspar, scordite, and omber in the mission and get home in time for dinner.

And that turned out to be the most lucrative aspect of the mission.  Nearly two million units of veldspar (1,995,000 actually) comes out to 5,990 refining units (333 units of veldspar are one refining unit).  Each refining unit yields 1,000 units of tritanium, which gave us 5,990,000 units which, at the current market rate for tritanium (4 ISK), adds up to close to 24 million ISK.

That, plus the omber and the scordite made for a nice bonus on top of the bounties, mission reward, and mission bonus.

It is fat times for veldspar mining right now!

Making Some ISK

Once in a while somebody makes a bad assumption and thinks I have deeper knowledge of EVE Online than I clearly posses.  I generally try to respond with what knowledge I do have, making it clear how limited it might be.

Sometimes though, it is better to open the question to a wider audience, the EVE community being the most excellent source of answers.  With that in mind, I received the following from Yolande:

I recently started playing EVE Online again and altho I have played it casually off and on (its sort of my “part time” MMO, my main one being that 10million sub cartoony one) I have so much to learn!  I have a pilot with a decent amount of SP (7Mill) and most learning maxed and yet still dont know how to make money in that game!  Any tips or could you point me to some archives in your blog?

I can answer for how I have made ISK so far in the game:

Missions – Running missions is the easiest way to get started I think.  Once you get to level III missions you actually start making enough ISK that you can invest it in other ventures.  And when you get to level IV missions the ISK really begins to flow.

Mining – The most reliable ISK generation device for me has been mining.  It starts slow and somebody (e.g. nerrellus) is going to comment about how boring mining is.  And that is true, mining is hardly exciting.  But when you have things setup right, you do not have to pay close attention to the game.  You can do something else… like write blog posts. (I’m mining ice as I write this.)  Following Halada’s excellent guide to mining will get you on the path to mining riches.

Production – Making things.  I turned to this when mining was going strong as a way to sell my minerals for more than the market price.  Rather than making 3 ISK per unit of tritanium by selling it in bulk, for example, I make produce things that sell for enough that I am essentially making 6-10 ISK per unit.  This requires some up front investment in blueprints as well as some research into the market to see what is selling and where it is selling.  The “where” is actually the more important.  I have found you can sell just about anything for a decent return if you can find the right location.  I have written about producing missiles and badgers on the blog.

I have tried other things.  I do a bit of the market speculation, buying things cheap in one area and selling them for more elsewhere. I also poked my nose into invention, but my first attempts at invention were poorly planned and cost me much more ISK than I ever got in return.

What other ways are there to make ISK?  What professions out there turn a profit?

And Then I Lost a Battlecruiser

Level III missions can be a dangerous things.

As is my usual luck, the first level III mission I ran was a big one called “Massive Attack.”

Unlike my first level I (“Worlds Collide,” run in an Ibis) and level II missions (“Recon, Part I“), I actually survived to fight another day.

I learned a few things running this mission, including the value of bookmarking a location within the mission so that you can jump out, then jump back in at a range where you can lay in with the heavy missiles without taking too much damage in return.

Still, in EVE, learning is an ongoing process. As I ran through one level III mission after another, I became quite confident that I was up to the task. My Drake seemed to be well equipped for missions. The passive tank on it tune based on suggestions made here and other places. I also put very expensive rigs (they all seem to need alloyed tritanium bars) in place to enhance my shields, and even bought a shield recharge improving implant with my expanding loyalty point balance.

So it was time for me to learn something new.

A good portion of the level III missions I get take place in low security systems. The agent is in high security, but the target is not.

Still, no big deal, right? I enter the system then jump right away to the mission and I only have some NPCs to worry about.

I had not considered the idea that other players would be out there in low security actually hunting mission runners. That whole corporations would be dedicated to scanning systems known to be popular for missions for players and hunting them down when they found them.

I seem to forget from time to time that EVE is, first and foremost, a PvP game.

And so it came to pass, I received a mission that sent me to Nalvula. It was one I had run before and I was prepared for it with both the correct ammunition and correct shield resistances.

I entered the system, jumped to the start of the mission, and began taking apart NPC ships.

I did not give much notice to when another player ship dropped into range, just for a moment, then jumped away. That sort of thing happens all the time when you are mining.

It wasn’t until a battleship and a battle cruiser dropped into the middle of my running battle with the NPCs that I figured out that something was amiss. Or as somebody foreshadowed in local just a while before:


They locked on, warp scrambled, and chopped up one of my battle cruisers.

One of my battle cruisers?

Yes, I had decided that I needed to start working on standings with my miner. I thought that the easiest way would be to bring him along with Wilhelm on missions.

His skills were pretty meager when it came to combat. I bought him a Ferox, put some very simple equipment on it, armed it with 75mm Gatling Rails and a pair of ‘Malkuth’ Standard Missile Launchers, all of which I had laying around in storage. I figured that with him in tow, he could take care of swatting those annoying tech II NPC frigates with their annoyingly high resistances. I hate having to throw magazine after magazine of heavy missiles at them, scoring 15-20 points of damage, trying to wear them down.

As a bonus, my miner can control five drones, so I figured that would help out as well.

And so it was, when the pair jumped in. Wilhelm’s Drake and my miner’s Ferox were fighting away.

I was actually not quite as oblivious as I said above. Somebody dropping into my mission made me suspicious. So when the wrecking crew showed up, I immediately clicked on a station in the overview and sent the Drake off into warp. Just in time too, as the logs show they were trying to warp scramble Wilhelm right away.

Switching windows, I tried to send my miner off to a station as well, but it was too late, he was scrambled.

I put up what fight I could. I doubt either of them even noticed, but I put my drones and all my guns and missile bays on the Drake. As expected, the result was:

Destroyed: Ferox
System: Nalvula
Security: 0.4

Involved parties:

Name: Goyda (laid the final blow)
Security: -8.2
Alliance: SMASH Alliance
Corp: Veni Vidi Vici.
Ship: Raven
Weapon: Caldari Navy Mjolnir Torpedo

Name: tchamp2
Security: -7.8
Alliance: SMASH Alliance
Corp: Veni Vidi Vici.
Ship: Drake
Weapon: Hornet II

Destroyed items:

‘Malkuth’ Standard Missile Launcher I
‘Malkuth’ Standard Missile Launcher I
75mm Gatling Rail I
75mm Gatling Rail I
Large Shield Extender I
Shield Power Relay I
Power Diagnostic System I
Power Diagnostic System I
Antimatter Charge S, Qty: 186
Flameburst Light Missile, Qty: 37
Antimatter Charge S, Qty: 183
Antimatter Charge S, Qty: 185

That was the most expensive equipment, such that I had, destroyed with the ship. The missiles they expended probably cost them more than they could get for the pieces that remained.

Then, as my miner sat there in his pod, I learned that you can, in fact, warp scramble pods. I had not considered the idea up until that point and I had assumed, somewhere in the back of my mind, that pods ought to be at least somewhat immune to warp scrambled. Another illusion crushed.

Then came the offer to chat from one of them. I knew this was going to be the extortion round and they were not going to buy into how little ISK I keep on my miner, so I declined and they zapped me.

Destroyed: Capsule
System: Nalvula
Security: 0.4

Involved parties:

Name: tchamp2 (laid the final blow)
Security: -8.1
Alliance: SMASH Alliance
Corp: Veni Vidi Vici.
Ship: Drake
Weapon: Caldari Navy Scourge Heavy Missile

The pod, that was the expensive part. I had implants in my miner, and replacing them was going to cost me. Fortunately, Wilhelm had a stockpile of loyalty points. Still, even from the LP store, a +3 implant runs 12 million ISK.

Of course, it was only later that I read this in local:


Self destruct? I did not even know that was an option.

Well, at least I got off… well, not cheaply. But it could have been much worse. Had I lost the Drake and all of Wilhelm’s implants, or worse, both ships and both pods, I might have just called it a day for EVE, cancelled my account, and gone off to other games.  Not that I couldn’t afford to replace the items lost, but it is such a pain to go out an re-equip a ship with so many fitting

This demonstrates again that there really is not much of a PvE game in EVE. If anybody says you can just run missions, feel free to point out that any mission that strays into low security space, something that starts with level II missions, is essentially PvP enabled.

That is EVE Online.