My first exploration run had started so well...
Enticed by rumors of big payoffs, I outfitted a Probe ship with Analyzers and found an untouched Relic Site in a system several jumps away from base. A few successful hacking minigames later, I had 20 million ISK worth of salvage & ancient tech in my cargo bay. That was more than I had made in my first week of mining on EVE. I began heading back towards base.
...And entered a system with 4 hostiles in it.
I panicked and hit the Jump to Gate button immediately in an attempt to get away before they could find me. Halfway there, I realized the system only had 2 gates, and they weren't on the one I came through...
I dropped out of warp right in the midst of them.
I managed to jump through the gate before they could react.
I took a moment to catch my breath. Then I saw red dots pop up on my scanner. They had followed me through.
They quickly locked me down and blew me up. I lost a 20mil ISK haul and a 3mil ISK ship on a stupid mistake. I just logged off the game and sat back in my chair for a moment. I was utterly demoralized; I didn't log back in for several hours, and when I did, I immediately moaned about my loss to KiteCo.
"Heh, it happens. Let me link you a death I had."
The Kill Report was a year old; he had lost a freighter in our home sector to a hostile fleet. The total value of the freighter and its contents was in the billions.
"Everyone goes through that moment of truth you just did. They lose hours or days of work to a stupid mistake. And when they do, they have two choices: they can either quit the game in frustration, or they decide they can recover from it and get back to work. If you can't accept losses, don't play EVE."
The most dangerous aspect of EVE is traveling. You jump blind into each system, praying there isn't hostiles gate-camping the other side. There is no scenic griffin ride; every step of the journey is a jump into the unknown. It's bad enough moving yourself... but you need to move your inventory, too. Everything in EVE has to be manually transported from Point A to Point B; the auction house doesn't mail you your stuff, you need to contract a Jump Freighter to haul it in and pray it doesn't get blown up along the way. There can be massive fluctuations in price within just 2 jumps of each other, if those 2 jumps are a warzone. Are you willing to risk your ship for 50%-off Afterburners? And can you get your new stuff back in one piece?
While I was still getting used to the Catch sector, I noticed a great deal on some ship modules: they were 60% lower than the market average just 17 jumps away. I was overjoyed at how cheap I bought them... until I actually tried to retrieve them.
On my first attempt, I ran into a roaming hostile fleet 5 jumps away and lost a ship to them. That ship cost several times more than what I had saved on the modules.
On my second attempt, I took the "Rookie Ship" you get for free whenever you arrive at a station without a ship. It had enough cargo room to store the modules, and I wouldn't lose anything if it got blown up. That ship got blown up 2 jumps in by a Northern Coalition fleet camping a major crossroads in the sector.
For my third attempt, I set my clone respawn to the station the modules were at, then killed myself. I took the free Rookie Ship I received there, then tried to complete the return trip. I ran into a persistent Crow that could warp faster than me and predicted where I was warping to by observing which direction I was facing. I respawned back at the station, smarting from the loss...
Only to realize I still had the modules. Somehow, I completely forgot to place the modules into my cargo bay. They were still stored on the station, waiting for me to take them! I could use another chance to-
"Screw it, this ain't working." I trashed them and reset my clone respawn for home base.
That was an early lesson in how much distance mattered. But it was also an early lesson in how different prices can be in the same sector. And if you could safely move that stuff to a more expensive region, you could make a lot of ISK...
"It's Economic PVP."
"The second most popular form of EVE PVP next to blowing stuff up. Buying cheap items and marking them up for a hefty increase, moving stuff to where it will sell better, finding ways to undercut the competition... You can make plenty of money playing the market. Of course, you can also lose a ton of money that way."
This quickly turned into a debate about the price of importing everything from HiSec vs locally manufacturing it.
The same probes that cost 20,000ISK here cost 8,000ISK just 7 jumps away. Buying 8 of them would cost nearly 200k ISK here... or I could get them for just 64k ISK there. It would be a 60% discount...
...or a 150% profit.
I pondered that a few moments. Probes took up little space; I could fit thousands of them on a Rookie Ship. Multiply that by 12,000ISK and that's a lot of money. Of course, I would probably need to mark it down more than that- otherwise people would just head to that station like I did- but that would still be a hefty profit. And if I was careful enough, I could probably get them back in one piece...
I decided to risk it. I picked a spare Rookie Ship I kept just for situations like this, plotted a course, and waited for several minutes, just watching the Intel channel while looking at the map. The Intel channel was our way of mitigating the risk of traveling; alliance members posted notices in it if they spotted (or got blown up by) enemies, and everyone else avoided that area for a few minutes unless they wanted a fight. It felt like listening to HAM radio operators discussing the weather: East India Co. was camping the main gate to HiSec, NC had a squad camping the V-3 station dock, and there was an unidentified fleet moving towards Neocortex Station... but the route to the probes sounded clear. I decided to chance it. I undocked and began warping.
Two jumps away from the station, I encountered 2 hostiles gate-camping. I twitched a moment, then paused. Panicking didn't work the last time... and I still had several moments of cloaking from the gate-jump to concoct a plan. There were 2 other gates in the system, but warping directly to them would tip them off where I was going. There was also 7 planets in the system I could warp to... perhaps I could lose them there. I aligned to one of the planets and began to warp.
I promptly got my warp drive disrupted and blown up. As my capsule ejected, I slammed on the Warp button. It managed to warp before the enemies could lock onto it. The chase was on. We bounced between different planets, the enemy ships appearing on my scanner just as I hit Warp Speed, until I managed to line up 2 planets in the same direction. I chose the closer one and jumped. As I came out of warp, I saw the enemy ships appear on my scanner... and promptly zoom by me at warp speed. They chose the wrong planet. I quickly warped to the next gate before they could recover and made it to the station, shipless but alive. A new Rookie Ship was waiting there for me... as well as my stash of probes.
I sighed and collapsed into my chair. "I'll wait until tomorrow to transport these back."
"It might be safer, and nearly as profitable, to just contract your ore to BOVRIL or Veldspar."
"Check out their buyback program."
While there were plenty of general "do everything" corps in the BRAVE alliance, a few specialized corps stood out. There was a black ops corp, a wormhole-exploration corp... and the mining & industry corps, respectively named BOVRIL bOREers Mining Co-Op and Veldspar Industries. Both corps had notifications about Buyback Programs in the Alliance Message of the Day, but I hadn't paid attention to them yet.
"You see, with buyback, you figure out what they're willing to pay you for it, then you make up a contract to give that stuff to them in exchange for the payment. You make a bit less than you would if you sold it at the local stations yourself... but you don't risk getting blown up transporting it, either."
I liked the idea of not getting blown up while transporting millions of ISK worth of cargo. I clicked the links and brought up... a GoogleDocs spreadsheet. Simply enter the items & quantities you had and it would spit up a price for the contract. I crafted a contract using the items and prices specified and confirmed it.
When they say EVE is Spreadsheets in Space, they don't mention those Spreadsheets are made by the players.
I started the trip back the next morning in the midst of a Kadeshi invasion. I figured it would still be easier than doing it during primetime... at least until I was trapped in a two-way system by 4 gatecampers. Neither escape option looked good, so I found an isolated planet and Safe Logged, causing my ship to disappear from the system after 30 seconds... and waited.
Hour later... still there. Two hours later... still there. I logged off again and did something else. EVE, like Dark Souls, punishes impatience. Four hours later, they had finally left, allowing me to safely complete my run. I put the probes up for sale at a station frequented by newbros for 14k ISK apiece; enough for me to make a profit without draining their coffers. I leaned back in my chair and exhaled.
"...If I do this again, I gotta pick a better time and more cargo."
Mining in NullSec makes you alert. I had an eye on Local Chat and an eye on my Overview the whole time. The moment I saw a hostile in either, I fled. In BOVRIL homespace, it got more complicated; enemy stealth ships liked to camp the system and go AFK, threatening us without actually being there in person. (The only way to find an idle stealth ship is to come within 2 kilometers of them... tough to do when they have an entire solar system to hide in.) Mining there involved staying aligned to the station, keeping a close eye on the Overview for uncloaking ships and the local Fleet chat for attacks, and not mining in something shiny (expensive). Days went by without losing a ship, and I got my first payment for ore contracts: 12mil ISK, enough to outfit 4 mining ships. After draining my coffers for the past 2 weeks, buying replacement ships and backup ships and skill books, I had taken my first steps towards actually making money... and having some to waste on PvP.
"You make money to dump it into PvP. Forget Metal Gear Solid, this is the war economy."
Our pre-roaming fleet discussion about EVE economics was promptly interrupted by a hostile appearing in our home system; he must not have expected such a prompt response, because our home fleet quickly surrounded him, tackled him, and killed him. Someone posted the Kill Report so we could all have a look at what he lost: 50mil ISK worth of ship & modules.
He came back a moment later in a second ship, peeked into the system, and left again. This time, we decided to follow him through the gate. We caught him unaware waiting on the other side of the gate and quickly tackled & killed him again. He lost 70mil ISK worth of ship this time.
A few minutes later, he came back to our system in a 3rd ship with a few friends. We gave him the standard post-fight remark: "gf" for "good fight". (I originally thought it meant something more vulgar.) He replied with a snide remark about us "actually leaving the system for once". His impoliteness in defeat struck a nerve.
"Aww," our Fleet Commander said, "You feeling salty today?" The other fleet members chanted, "Salt! Salt!" in response.
"What sort of idiot still says that? You're stupid," our opponent said as a half-dozen of his friends came through the gate to support him. We had a decent fight on our hands; we retreated back to station to scheme.
A stealth scout reported back: we could probably take them on if we struck fast and focused on one. But which one? Our Fleet Commander pondered this a moment. "Let's go after the salty one. He's a sore loser."
We warped in on top of him. His friends fled in a panic as we swarmed him & blew him up. As we withdrew back to station, we checked out the Kill Report and burst out laughing.
"He lost a 300mil ISK ship! Look at all this junk! He must've been so mad he forgot to clear out his cargo hold before he took it out! And it's a T3 ship, so he lost skill points, too! Oh, I'm so glad we killed that salty bastard!"
In his anger, he had lost over 400mil ISK worth of ships and several days worth of skill training trying to get back at us. Most of it could've been easily avoided.
"Lessons to be learned here: don't take losses personally, be courteous to the enemy, and revenge usually isn't profitable. Now come on, we have a roam to do."
We ran into a fleet twice our size at the end of the roam and lost most of our ships in the process, probably costing our Corp a few billion ISK. No one got salty, at least publicly.
At the end of the week, I checked how my Probes were selling. I grimaced as I checked the market: someone had put 1500 of them for sale at the same station for 9,000 ISK apiece, severely undercutting me. To move them at all now, I had to cut the price myself to 8,800 ISK, reducing my profit margin to a measly 8% after taxes. I sighed and slumped back into my chair. No use getting mad about it, though; wins & losses were all a part of PvP, Economic and Otherwise. The best thing to do would be to get back to work on my next money-making scheme. I checked my Money Transactions...
...and was suprised to find two 50mil ISK donations in it. One of them arrived with a message from a Northern Coalition member: "Nice article on GiantBomb; hope you continue to write them!"
In a day, I had made more ISK from writing about EVE than I had made actually playing it. I shouldn't have been surprised: so much of EVE occurs outside of the actual game that paying people in-game for outside work is expected. You can play EVE without... well, actually playing EVE.
Well, if I didn't have enough incentive to continue my weekly series on EVE before, I sure did now. I sat down and began to type...