Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Level 4 Agents Unlocked

Finally unlocked all level 4 Caldari agents


I reached another milestone, completing the last storyline mission I needed to push my Caldari State standings over 5 (5.18 to be exact), thus making all Caldari level 4 agents available to me. I ran a few level 4 distribution missions just to get a feel for it: they pay about 500 LP and 200-300K ISK each, and require up to 7000 m3 of cargo space. I've found a loop of systems around Hirtamon, 2 jumps from Jita, and doing all the level 3 and 4 distribution agents there will be a nice sideline. The level 4 agents tend to want to send you further away, though, so remember to ask twice if the first offer's destination is too far away. If the second offer is bad too, just click the Delay button and wait four hours - no standings hit :)

You can see from the picture that the storyline missions came pretty quickly; I did six of them on Feb 15th alone. Those include level 2 and 3 missions...remember, you get a storyline mission for every 15 regular missions at each difficulty level, regardless of which corp you run them for.

Jump Freighters

The jump freighters are all tradeable again, with a 300-400M gap between the buy and sell orders. With my broker fees reduced from 0.54% to 0.36% (thanks missions!) I'm saving about 20M in fees on each flip. So I currently own four, one of each model! They're all listed for sale, but the sale is usually slower than the buy.

First Wormhole Visit

I finally made a trip into a wormhole - there was a class 2 entrance in Fliet so I got my exploration Helios and went a-scanning. I'd always wanted to try the nullsec relic and data sites and since CCP added them to wormholes a few months back I'd be able to do so more easily. I'd read a couple of guides to handling wormholes, so I knew to d-scan a lot and also bookmark the entrance and any exits I used. I checked who owned the POCOs in the system and looked up their corporate zkillboard, and did the same for the wormhole itself. Not much activity in either place, so I was probably safe.

I found and started a data site, but quit halfway through: the loot was worth very little...about 500K from 3 cans. I kept probing the system and found a relic site...15M ISK, that's better! I'm going to follow the advice I've read recently and remove the data analyzer, replacing it with a rangefinding midslot module to make the probing go faster.

On the way back to my home station I flew through what I heard described on corp comms as "an instalocking gatecamp" - my Helios wasn't caught, thanks Cov Ops Cloaking Device!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Boosting Standings Through Distribution Missions

  • The Jump Freighter trade that has been so lucrative for me has dried to a trickle; I haven't successfully bought, let alone sold, one this month.
  • Planetary Interaction is also minimal this month.
  • I've added Small Energy rigs to my manufacturing rotation, make for ~15K, sell for 60-100K.
  • I skilled up to running 9 production lines at once.
  • I've bought a Proteus and some Asteros and can, time allowing, go run some level 4 faction warfare missions and small exploration combat sites.

My Distribution Mission Layout (approximately)

Why Run Distribution Missions?

Those are the bullet points for what's happened in the last couple of weeks, but the area that's been the most fun is running Level 2, then Level 3 distribution missions in order to raise my standings with the Caldari State, which I'm doing to try and cut my tax/fees bill, currently running at 2-3B ISK per month! Prior to doing these missions, my broker fee was 0.54% (it's now 0.46% after maybe 8 hours of missions). The Caldari Navy corporation, which owns Jita, already loves me lots (7+), so boosting my Caldari State standings (it was 2.7) is the most obvious improvement I can now make.

Faction standings are more than twice as important (says Eve Uni wiki) as corporate standings when it comes to determining your broker fees, so you want the Caldari State to think you're the bees knees. You can most easily raise this by running 15 missions of one type and level (i.e 16 level 2 security, or 15 level 3 distribution) for agents of ANY (ANY!) Caldari company. The company doesn't matter, do 'em all.  When the 15th is completed, a Storyline Agent will contact you and offer you a "mission which will greatly impact your faction standings." This is the juice!

The missions are easy; so far I've seen "Clear The Path", killing three easy waves of Gallente ships (done in a Rapid Light Missile Caracal), Materials of War (buy and deliver 10,000 Omber). I've done each of these several times and my faction standing is now 3.8.

Many people will advise you to track how many missions you've done, and make sure the last mission is near a Storyline Agent, because their missions give a big boost to your standings for the Storyline Agent's corporation too. I was less interested in that, so I didn't bother tracking; I just chewed through as many missions as I could.

So I bought a Nereus hull, equipped cargo optimization rigs and Expanded Cargohold IIs, learned the MWD+Cloak trick and brought up the Agent Finder. I set the Faction filter to Caldari, mission type to distribution, and went to the nearest cluster and picked up missions.

Backtracking a little: I've already done some security missions, but its been a slog. Each one takes a while, and though you can accept more than one at a time, you can only been in one mission site at a time, shooting one set of rats.  The nice thing about distribution missions is that after accepting three, four, five missions and setting off on the journey, you're working on all of them at the same time! And when you dock to deliver one cargo, you can often pick up another at the very same station! Put simply, you can do a lot of these missions, and quickly. In four hours of play, I received and ran THREE storyline missions. This raised my faction standing from 2.7 to 3.1, which unlocked all the Level 3 Caldari Agents.

Shaping The Cloud

You want to avoid accepting missions that send you too far out of the way, and I also prefer to avoid low-sec deliveries, which carry greater risk but offer no higher reward. My Nereus carries about 15km3 of cargo (soon to be more), and Level 3 missions require cargo between 1800 and 4000m3 each, so I'm usually working five or six missions at the same time. In my experience (hah!) a Level 3 Caldari distribution agent is never more than 1 or 2 jumps away.

When you talk to an agent, look at the delivery point. If its on your current route, take it: easy decision there. If not, make a note of current length of your route. Then right-click the deliver system and Add Waypoint. Then click Optimize (you're going to be using this button a lot!) If the length of your route changes by more than 2 or 3...meh...if it changes by 4 or more..that's a long way to go for just one guy.  Are there more agents along the way, and do you have the cargo space to pick up more? The more full you are, the more you want the delivery system to be very close to where you're already going. You ain't got no time to go wandering off your route for a single delivery.

With each agent you get two bites of the cherry; you can decline their first offer. Here's the new trick I just learned. You can talk to them again AND "Delay" the second offer if you don't like it. I used to never Request Mission a second time because I thought I'd be obliged to take it or have to Decline, thus taking a standings penalty. But you can safely ask again, then click "Delay" if you don't like it. The mission offer will eventually (a week later) expire and you'll get an email from the agent expressing disappointment, but you'll not be penalized. Or you can wait four hours and safely decline the mission.

The Agent Finder (I've mapped Shift-Alt-F to it) won't indicate if you're carrying cargo for an agent, so keep the journal handy (Alt-J) and make sure, before fly to talk to an agent, that you're not already working for them!

Ignore the fact that you'll miss out on most of the bonus payments; you're probably doing this for standings, not for the ISK or even the loyalty points.

Safety and Mistakes You Might Make

The stuff you're carrying is mostly worthless, but gankers sometimes kill industrial ships for the lolz. You should learn the Cloak+MWD trick, and use it if you see any combat ships at the gate when you arrive on the other side..I saw a surprising number of Tengus that just sat on the gate. Most of the time, however, I've seen mostly industrial ships or nobody at all.

Mistakes in the missions mainly means you're flying less efficiently; try not to get sent really far out of the way, especially if you're close to full already. You'd like to be making a pickup or delivery every 2 or 3 jumps.  Just last night I flew an extra five jumps to a station, just to talk to an agent. And my ship was already full, d'oh! I couldn't have accepted his mission even if I wanted to! Don't add too many agent's stations to your route just because you'd like to get missions from them. Three or four agents can fill you up.

It can be hard to remember, after a lot of adding/deleting waypoints, why a particular waypoint is on your route. The "Agents and Places" screen (Alt-E) will help a little, but you have to look at each set of places yourself. If you don't see a delivery to that system listed, you had planned to talk to an agent there, but maybe you've already picked up all the cargo you can handle.

Helping Out The Little Guys

You can, of course, work for Level 2 and Level 1 agents as well. They have, remember, their own counter to 15 missions and will generate storyline missions for you, albeit less lucrative ones. Their cargoes are much smaller and they tend to send you to closer systems, which can be a nice easy gain. I won't fly to a system JUST to talk to them, though, I pretty much only use them if they happen to be in the same station I'm already in.

I don't accept these cheaper missions if they require me to go somewhere else, pickup a thing, and bring it back to this agent. "They, Robots" comes to mind.

UI Improvements

It's easy to lose track of why a particular station or system is on your route: am I delivering there, or is there an agent I wanted to talk to? Looking at the agent finder, do I already have a mission from that particular agent? Which of these agents are along the route I'm flying?

The information to answer these questions is available, but its in several windows. One easy improvement I see is for the agents in the Agent Finder to have their names colored green if you already have accepted a mission from them. Their system name, or agent name perhaps, could be in a different color (yellow?) if it lies on your current route, just like the Market window already does.

It would be nice if the "System" list on the agent finder was restricted to the current region you were in. If I choose "The Forge", that's where I'm interested in looking.

Extra Benefit

You can run these missions easily while doing other real life tasks, such as cleaning the kitchen, and earn spouse LP :) I put the laptop on the stove and click the "jump" button every 45 seconds or so.