Sooner or later, every EVE player hears the call. Some hear it earlier. Some later. But it's audible across New Eden: the clarion call of null-sec. Whether or not you feel that null-sec is the "end-game" of EVE, chances are good that if you're an EVE player, you'll want to try it for yourself. But getting started is tricky. "Null-sec" in and of itself is not a simple monochromatic entity. It turns out that there are many varieties of null-sec play in EVE, just as there are for any other type of EVE play. Understanding the types of null-sec and how they differ will be just as important to your decision-making as anything else.
Joining a null-sec corp often trips up the new resident and it's because doing so combines the two hardest elements of EVE into a single move:
- learning how to play the game in an entirely new way; and,
- joining a brand new corp, and probably a brand new alliance as well.
A player entering null-sec to stay nearly always has some kind of external force driving or influencing that decision. This guide is written assuming that whatever force is driving you into null-sec is not a friend, colleague, or forum-mate. Potential members of Goonswarm, for instance, will probably find little of value in this guide: their external driver is the community that they are part of outside of EVE, and the assurance that once they are in null-sec, that community will take care of them. Similarly, if you are joining a corp of friends that happens to live in null-sec, you may find that much of the advice in this guide is not applicable to your situation, either.
Still, I'd offer you one small piece of advice: don't chase someone else's dream!
Only someone who goes into null with their eyes wide open about what's going to happen to him or her there is going to succeed. Do not have any illusions: though you are surrounded by a group, you're going to spend much of your time in null alone, working toward your own goals. If you do not have plans, goals or aspirations of your own when you enter null, your foray into null-sec space is not likely to be successful.
Types of Null-Sec Corps and Alliances
There are five major types of null-sec corps and alliances that you can potentially join. Each has their strengths and their weaknesses, depending on the type of play that you favor.
The large sov-holding alliance. This alliance will have one thousand or more pilots, likely separated into three to eight large corps, with a larger number of smaller corps. Of course, a few alliances of this type will be much larger. They will typically hold sovereignty in between one and four constellations. They will likely have ownership of between two and ten null-sec outposts. They will typically hold sovereignty of their own accord. Most will have a strong back-bone of PvPers, often with several active FCs, and most will also have a strong carebear contingent.
- Pros: Wide variety of player types, across multiple time zones. Wide variety of play styles available. Solid infrastructures and fleet command structures. Solid logistics chains, including jump bridge chains both of their own and access to those of their allies. Solid finances. Free stuff for members, including repairs, ships, ammo, and the like. Reimbursement policies. Titan bridging for fleets.
- Cons: Skill point minimums. Extremely bureaucratic. Typically extremely unfriendly to players who are new to null-sec. Difficult to break into the culture. Many mandatory operations (CTAs). Often, alliance membership fees of some sort. Heavily infiltrated by spies.
The medium-size sov-holding alliance. This alliance will have between 500 and one thousand pilots, likely separated into three to eight large corps, with a small number of satellite corps. They will typically hold sovereignty in a single constellation, and may or may not have ownership of a very limited number of null-sec outposts. More often, they will be allowed docking rights into null-sec outposts that they do not own. They will typically hold sovereignty of their own accord, but the systems which they hold will be of limited value, with few resources, reduced truesec, or both. However, the corp will have a reasonably strong backing of both PvPers and carebears with active FCs for both PvP and PvE activity.
- Pros: Wide variety of player types, across multiple time zones. Wide variety of play styles available. Solid infrastructures and logistics, often with access to allied jump bridge chains. Will have access to very low-risk, high-value ISK sources.
- Cons: Skill point minimums. Bureaucratic and heavy security. Often, have spurt-and-drift recruiting drives resulting in large numbers of players who are fresh to null-sec. Often, are drifters, recently established in null-sec, often for the second (or third, or fourth) time. High membership turn-over.
The small sov-holding corp and alliance. This alliance will have between 250 and 500 pilots, likely separated into one or two large corps, with a very small number of satellite corps. Most often, these alliances will be renting their space from a much larger entity, though a few such alliances (currently being hunted to extinction) hold sovereignty of their own accord. They will typically hold sovereignty in a single constellation, and most often will have ownership of one (or perhaps two) null-sec outposts. This sort of alliance is most often very carebear-heavy.
- Pros: Solid infrastructures and logistics chains, sometimes with access to allied jump bridge chains. Often, have access to very low-risk, high-value ISK sources. Minimal bureaucracy. Usually, rather friendly to new players with a good mentoring system. Usually, Titan bridging for fleets.
- Cons: Often, few dedicated PvPers and are sometimes "kicked around" by the local bullies. Large gaps in time zone coverage. Will either have some mandatory operations or alliance membership fees (and possibly both). Usually reliant upon and beholden to a much-larger neighbor. High membership turn-over. Usually heavily infiltrated by spies.
The medium or large "unbound" corp or alliance. This alliance will have approximately 500 pilots, but could have as many as 1500 for large examples. If this is an alliance, it will typically be composed of a central founding corporation surrounded by smaller satellite corporations. This alliance will not hold sovereignty, but instead will typically be settled into NPC null-sec in some open region such as Syndicate, Stain, The Great Wildlands, or Outer Ring. This sort of alliance is always PvPer-heavy, and usually quite skilled at it. They will have settled into one or more NPC constellations and will have access to NPC systems that they consider "theirs".
- Pros: Solid infrastructures and fleet command structures. Solid logistics chains, including allied jump freighter and carrier access. Frequent PvP fleets with a variety of types. Titan bridging for fleets. Free or cheap stuff for members, including ammo, mods, and the like.
- Cons: Skill point minimums. Typically extremely unfriendly to players who are new to null-sec. Difficult to break into the culture. Usually heavily infiltrated by spies. Usually, high membership turn-over. Usually, gaps in time zone coverage.
The small "unbound" corp or alliance. This alliance will have approximately 250 pilots, but could have as many as 500. If it is an alliance, it will almost certainly be only a central founding corporation surrounded by small satellite corporations almost entirely peopled by alts. This alliance will not hold sovereignty, but will usually be the remnant corp or corps of an alliance that once or recently did. They will have settled either into NPC null-sec or will have been set blue by a much larger neighbor and will be allowed docking rights in one or more of their outposts. This sort of alliance is usually a mixed bag of PvPers and carebears, and often has a rather chaotic feel in terms of its membership, with many people coming and going.
- Pros: Quick advancement for capable new members. Frequent PvP fleets with a variety of types. Solid fleet commanders. Usually, rather friendly to new players with a good mentoring system. Little or no bureaucracy. Often, have access to low-risk, high-value ISK sources.
- Cons: Very high membership turn-over. Sometimes beholden to a much larger neighbor. Often, have spurt-and-drift recruiting drives resulting in large numbers of players who are fresh to null-sec. Alternately, will have no recruiting strategy at all, resulting in a stagnant or decreasing membership. Often, are somewhat "rudder-less" with a lack of true leadership.
Where to start?
As you can see from reading the above, few null-sec corps or alliances are particularly newbie-friendly. You might have become a little disheartened. Most have skill-point minimums. Many offer limited assistance or mentoring to new pilots. The assumption will often be that you know what you're doing from the get-go. This trend will only intensify this winter and into next spring, as many un-subbed EVE veterans return to null. Alternately, if you do get into a large, well-structured null-sec alliance, you might quickly find your life overwhelmed by CTAs. This might leave you with the feeling that your only viable option will be with a less-capable alliance with fewer advantages.
First things first: do not despair! Moving to null is just like anything else in EVE. If you come to it with foresight and a plan, you will be successful. If you do not have an external driver like a friend pulling you into his null-sec corp, the first step is always to look at your own motivations for wanting to move to null. Which is your primary motivating factor? What is the single thing that is most important to you?
- Are you wanting to become part of the Great Game?
- Are you wanting to build up your PvP skills?
- Are you looking for a more social atmosphere in which to play EVE?
- Are you simply looking for a larger source of ISK?
If you want to be part of the Great Game, then your best bet is ironically often going to be to join a pet or renter alliance, or a smaller sov-holding alliance that is beholden to a larger neighbor. Sure, you're not going to get into the Great Game at first, but if you choose wisely, you'll find satellite alliances that participate in major fleet fights. Do your research! Pick your side! Want to be part of the DRF horde? Then seek out battle reports from large DRF fleet battles. Look for the smaller player corps that are participating, and find one that's in your time zone. Virtually every null-sec corp or alliance has a public channel from which they direct recruiting and this is most often your first and best source of information about that alliance. Get into that public channel and start chatting! Once you've been in a pet or renter alliance for a while, you'll find that your large neighbors will often do their recruiting by picking and choosing renter pilots that have been active and useful. This will get you into the Great Game proper.
If your primary motiviating goal is to build up your PvP skills, then a non-sov-holding alliance will often be your best choice. Such alliances will concentrate on smaller PvP roams that will build up your PvP skills faster than large fleet battles. Again, do your research: look for corps that seem to be a good match for your skill points and experience, that are active in your time zone. Battle reports on eve-kill.net will be a great source of information, as will the "war and politics" threads on Failheap and Kugutsumen. As you build up your PvP skills, this will make you more valuable to a whole host of alliances.
If the social aspect of play is what you're after, then the small- and medium-size sov-holding alliances are often going to be your best bet. Much more newbie-friendly than the big boys, these alliances will often be centered on more social activities. You're probably not going to build up PvP skills very quickly in such an alliance; they tend to be reactive rather than proactive when it comes to such things: they're typically defensive entities. Still, they will have active mining and ratting ops (if they don't skip EVE entirely for World of Tanks, heh), and might even have classes to teach you the things you need to know. If you're primarily wanting to play EVE socially, you can often spend your entire EVE career in these alliances and be quite happy there.
If you're looking for ISK, then again, a renter alliance is almost certainly going to be the right way to go for you initially. These alliances, while carebear-heavy, will be quite tolerant of your money-grubbing ways. ;-) Most of the pilots in such alliances will be in null-sec for the same reason you are, and many will be quite open to sharing tips and techniques for your success in this. Particularly in smaller such alliances (DRF renters, for instance), carebearing will be a group activity, and there will be multiple groups working on different goals, from mining to ratting to PLEXing. ISK in and of itself is probably not a long-term goal, but you can be quite successful in such an alliance building up your bank-roll while you decide what your next move is.
The critical question in making your initial choice, though, is always going to be the same: what's your initial driver for getting into null? Once you've answered this question, you can make a smart choice that will allow you to be more likely to be successful there.
In Part 2 of this guide, I'll cover the steps you should take to prepare yourself for null and some highlights of what's likely to be the focus of your first few weeks in your new null-sec corp.