Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Demon suit

Two years ago, I was at an interesting point in my EVE career.  At the time, I was in Sturmgrenadier, an EVE organization with one foot in null-sec and one foot in high-sec.  The idea was the main body of SG was in null, but also kept a high-sec group whose goal it was to recruit newer EVE players, get them comfortable with fleets and fleet objectives, and then slowly introduce them to the idea of moving to null.(1)  As someone who had made that transition myself, I let myself be recruited into being second-in-charge of the high-sec arm.  That was my official title.

Unofficially, I was under constant pressure to guide people into the null-sec arm.

One of my tools in this was to run high-sec L4 mission groups.  The idea was to get a dozen or so of the high-sec members together on a mutually agreeable night and run missions.  The stated goal for those that joined was to build up ISK and standing for ultra-new EVE players so they could operate more independently.  Unofficially, the goal was to get these newbies into fleets and condition them to things like fitting ships properly, following fleet movement orders, and shooting at targets called by an FC.  Theoretically, it was practice for PvP.(2)  In practice, this bore fruit.  SG's high-sec arm was usually extremely successful in fighting off high-sec war-decs.

What this all means is that two years ago, the last time L4 missions were nerfed, I was doing them on a weekly basis and I was in a perfect position to track the impact of the nerf.

All through 2009 and 2010, I got into dozens and dozens of arguments with people on various EVE fora who were sure that L4 missions were destroying EVE.  These people were convinced that you could make a hundred million ISK per hour easily running and salvaging missions.  This was clearly wrecking the game's economy.... blah blah blah.  This stuff sure sounds familiar, doesn't it?  Just trust me when I say that two years ago, L4 mission-runners were wearing the demon suit that incursion-runners are wearing today.

In mid-2010, the nerf hammer came down.  It primarily struck L4 mission loot and salvage.  It was rather insidiously done.  Not only were the loot tables adjusted such that most rats dropped less loot, but a number of meta 3 and meta 4 items had their drop rates significantly increased.  As an example, two years ago meta MicoWarpdrives were horrifically expensive: on the order of five or six million ISK for the 10MN version and 12-15 million for the 100MN version.  You'd think that more of these dropping would be good news, and for a couple of days, it was.  Then of course, the bottom dropped out of the meta MWD market.  Today, so many meta MicroWarpdrives drop that you're just being dumb if you fit a T2 MWD to a ship.

As someone who was running missions every single week with a large group on both sides of that nerf, I had well-documented proof of how hard the nerf hammer came down.  In the end, mission loot was reduced in value by some 50%, resulting in an overall 35% decrease in L4 missioner income.  Even if missioners were making 100 million ISK/hour before the nerf (hint: they weren't), they definitely weren't making it after the nerf.

And now, of course, mission-runners have been nerfed again because they've actually been mining and haven't realized it.

I still have a record of the last L4 mission group I ran two years ago, after the nerf had been in play for a while.  There were ten of us that last time I ran it: six battleships (two of them faction), a Tengu, a newbie in a BC, and two ultra-newbies in salvage destroyers.(3)  We ran L4s for about 3.5 hours.  Not counting bounties or mission rewards, the group made about 89 million ISK that day.  57 million ISK of it was salvage.  22 million was meta 0-2 loot only good for reprocessing.  10 million was meta 3 or 4 loot worth selling.  The biggest shares I paid that day were about 13 million ISK.

Needless to say, we weren't making a lot of money running missions after that nerf.  A lot of people -- even rank newbies! -- stopped showing up to the weekly L4 mission fleets because it wasn't worth their time.  Let me say that again: being in a group running L4 missions wasn't worth a newbie's time.  They would have rather gone mining.  And now missions have been nerfed again.  People have been asking me for an update on part three of my L4 Solo Missioning guide.  Are any L4 missions worth salvaging now?

I'm coming to the conclusion that the answer is "no".

For virtually all of them, it's now worth more ISK to you to skip looting and salvaging the mission entirely and just go on to the next one.  Blitzing missions is becoming a way of life.  Over time, perhaps, the value of salvage and some meta items will rise with scarcity and the answer to that question will change.  But for now, I'm finding that there are only a tiny handful of missions that are still worth looting and salvaging.(4)

I haven't run the numbers yet to see what the overall impact on mission-runner income is going to be -- perhaps someone will share their estimates in the comments.  But my gut feel is that every other income source in New Eden is going to be superior to missioning for a while.  That's why Aiden Mourn thinking that incursion-runners are going to go back to missions is ridiculous.  I've heard from more incursion runners that are just unsubbing rather than submit to that indignity.

The funny thing about all this is that it'll probably take a while for the impact of this to shake out.  I've got a feeling that the hard-core mission-runners out there are stubborn.  I think they're going to keep working this grind stone long past the point of insanity.  We'll see if I'm right in the coming months.  Can't wait to see what CCP Diagoras's stats make of it come June or July...

(1) They still operate this way today.
(2) Were I to do this today, I'd definitely trade L4 missions for Incursion Vanguards.
(3) Of these ten players, one is me, three are still in Sturmgrenadier, two seem to still be playing but are in new corps, and four do not have Incarna-level avatars.
(4) "Angel Extravaganza" leads the pack.


  1. Great post
    I was a missioner, I ran lots of level 4's and helped many many others do the same. I never made great isk and missions turned out to be more of an isk treadmill.
    Running them in a BS was okay. but running it a tier 2 battleship was better. Running with faction mods was way better. I never made it to faction ships. All of this took more time running 4's and chances where you never really got ahead and actually banked much of the isk unless you grind for hours every day for months.
    With other more interesting better paying isk sources I can't recommend missioning.

    More than the isk factor they are really really boring. Even run in a fleet is more fun but that is only because your fleet mates are fun. Also with the noctis salvaging is no longer something for a 5 day old character to do while he skill sup to run missions....a noctis is expensive for a new player and he would be better served in a dps ship.

    I won't be running them again till they are intresting...solo or in fleet.

    1. Wait. Running them in a maelstorm yield about 30 mil per hour, which means after 40 hours you got your faction fitted pirate faction battleship.
      If that is months of game play for you, than I am ... speechless.

      Still, they are boring as all isk generating content in eve. So you are still right.

  2. There are a great many mission runners who run missions because that's what they do. It is their Zen meditation. They have billions of ISK in their wallets but have no desire to spend it on anthing. Their ISK balance is in every sense their score, and they play EVE instead of pinball because there are no pinball arcades.

    Some of these people will engage in PvP from time to time, but only when the mood strikes them to do so. They certainly want no part in group politics (not even to the level of RvB), they just want to have a bit of fun.

    So stats on the number of people still running missions are useless.

    Over time the supply of salvage components will adjust to the point that the people flying T2 fitted noctises can be bothered undocking. There is little in the way of income for the guy flying a salvage catalyst.

    Worlds Collide, Gone Berserk, Angel Extravaganza, Blockade and Dread Pirate Scarlet are the only missions worth abandoning and bookmarking for the career salvagers to clean up for you. These are missions which leave a large number of battleship wrecks inside a sphere 80km radius or less, where the battleships a likely to drop armor plates or alloyed trit bars. Outside those parameters, salvaging is a mug's game.

    1. I pretty much agree with your conclusions, and your list of missions worth salvaging, except that I'd remove The Blockade from the list. Even Worlds Collide is questionable.

  3. Ah missions...Sturmgrenadier still does missions but with the changes there are better ways to train pilots new and old.
    It is also not a good source of isk or entertainment value.

  4. What's the current average per-player payout for Incursions right now? Last I tried, it was around 100M/hour.

    L4 missions were NEVER that good (despite any claims to the side), but you *could* get up to around 75-80M/hour by blitzing missions and having good LP skills and running missions for select corps (eg, Sisters of EVE).

    Mining is never that good unless you've got a team with maxed out bonuses, in wormhole space, doing sites with ABC ores. Even then, not really good (and more risky!).

    1. It's nowhere near 100mil anymore. The changes to incursions were brutal, it tops out at around 70-80mil if you can get a chain of the correct sites in a row(unlikely to ever happen). Which is about what a lvl 4 used to top out at if you used a similar unlikely to ever happen mission chain. In reality, its closer to 60ish mil now if you have a good group that busts its ass. HQs oddly enough are king now, in theory they can still break the 100mil/h barrier, but so many things stand in the way of that it makes it nearly impossible.

      I dunno, I've always been leery of any numbers people quoted about incursions for isk generation though. People always tend to quote their absolute best run as their isk/h. When in practice it was never anywhere close to that except that one time when the planets aligned just right, the stars shined at their brightest, and the FC was half drunk so didn't pay attention to the group before ordering to hit the gate immediately on contact and everyone was walking the razors edge of total hell death.

    2. With a perfectly run VG fleet, you can get 75-80m/hour out of high-sec incursions. However, 50m/hour is much more typical, due to mistakes in the VG-running process, the difficulty in getting people into fleet, or the difficulty managing the Sansha influence bar.

      Assault and HQ sites are worth about 40m/hour.

  5. In general I think it's sad to see how things are going in the game. For a sandbox, CCP and a vocal minority seem determined to throw down some railroad tracks to null. The beauty of the sandbox concept was that you could play the game as you saw fit. That seems to be going away.

    I could honestly care less about mission running (hated it) or incusions (never did one) but I do hate this constant pushing of players to an area of the game (null) that is decidedly poor by means of making the rest of the game even worse. It's like finding a flat tire on your car and deciding to flatten the other three in order to make them all work the same. My personal experience with null was that it was the most boring and useless thing a player could do. That was more due to the people as a whole and not just some individuals. There were some good folks there too.

    To each their own I say. I wish other members of the EVE "community" could feel the same but people in general will tend to be the worst they're allowed to be.

    I'm not opposed to ganking. It's always been there. The player incurions into high sec (that tern is a joke really) are to unrealist in my opinion. The AI for high sec should reflect the powerful empires the background fiction claims they are. Any entity this weak would have already ceased to exist.

    I won't even get going on fixes to low sec. Can't even begin to wonder what happened there.

    I still hold that CCP and the CSM trying to fix something is like watching a bunch of frat guys trying to build a house. That's not a good thing.

  6. I recently stopped missioning due to wanting a break from the daily grind. To be honest, I've never really been one for salvaging, in fact I probably looted less than 10 missions in the past year, salvaging only 1.

    As of a week ago when I stopped missioning I was averaging around 60mill an hour, most of which was through LP item trading.

  7. Right now, I am doing level 3 missions and my only objective is to blitz through them in order to raise my standings with Minmator so that I can do Cosmos missions to further raise my standings. And after that I have to do the same thing all over again to raise my Gallente standings. This is fun, I don't think so.

  8. On the other hand, running incursion sites is a lot more pvp-like than running a level 4 mission in a group.

  9. I suppose it comes down to options. L4s are still damn easy to clear and salvage. For 10 people, they suck, but that has been true as long as I have played. For one guy with two accounts, salvage is still a nice option. You can steam roll 2-4 missions with two characters pulling from a double agent station, BM it all, and clean up. And not have to worry too much about dangers found in other isk generating methods.

    If you have better options due to time, location or play style, bully for you! I'll still salvage an Angels Ex or a Dread Pirate (Roberts) Scarlet. The salvage loot is still fine, just the meta drops are a bit tweaked. I'd almost like to see scrap metal removed. It's more fun in a weird way to just see the meta modules instead of more crap to fill the Noctis.

  10. "For virtually all of them, it's now worth more ISK to you to skip looting and salvaging the mission entirely and just go on to the next one. Blitzing missions is becoming a way of life."

    To me, this is ass-fucking-backwards -- directed at CCP of course. It's not the missioners or Incursioners faults that their favorite pastimes create ISK from thin air.

    Missions and Incursions both should provide items and LP. And LP should mean _free shit_. WTF kind of "loyalty rewards" program makes you pay for the rewards?

    I made up a really nice Immodest Proposal about it: http://carebearswithclaws.blogspot.com/2012/03/really-immodest-proposal.html -- if there ever was a Swiftian post to generate carebear QQs, that was it. :-)

  11. One guy in our corp is optimizing his ISK income in 0.0.

    Lets check how well he does:


    Oh yes. Those are the "ticks" from running Havens. How he does it? Thats for him to share but he's saving for a Titan.

  12. At first: EVE is prominently a PvP game. You shouldn't get rich by doing totally safe activities. Running lvl4 is printing money. You can't fail the mission (unless you are a below-10M SP newbie or a moron) and you can't lose your ship in PvP (unless you fitted 5B worth of officer item or undock wardecced). Running a mission is no different from mining. You fly to the zone, target the asteroid/rat, press F1-2-3, collect loot/drop can. Why should this activity pay more than pocket change?

    L4 MEANT TO BE a minimal-wage job. If you are running them for ISK, you are at the same level of the EVE society as the burger-flipper of the real life.

    If you want real money, go and salvage sleepers in WH or grab yourself a well-paying moon from those who currently hold it! Alternatively you can do market PvP.

    1. There is just one problem with that. It seems not to work that way, because null bears complain about their low income and the to high income of high sec. (Applies not to goons)
      I even agree that it should be that way, its just not working it seems.

    2. If I agree with your logic -- and I'm not saying I do, but if -- then it begs the question how the newest players are supposed to make ISK.

      EVE is more and more becoming a game for old bitter-vets and their friends. People who try to come in off the street may as well not even bother.

    3. At first, EVE is a sandbox. You should be able to get rich doing whatever the heck you want if you work hard at it and completely master all the intricacies of the task at hand. As you and others want to claim, there is no where that is safe in EVE so your supposition that anything is totally safe is preposterous. I am sure that you will back peddle on your position in some meager way to justify it. PvP with a high SP character vs lower SP characters with less skill is printing money with little or no risk. People go to work all day, push buttons, read spreadsheets and make 100 times what the burger flipper does with no real risk, only different decisions in what they do and how skilled they are at it. The analogy is flawed.

      L4 is meant to be something you can to to mess around and to build some wealth for your time. Not great wealth, but wealth nonetheless. Even a burger flipper can retire a millionaire if they live below their means, save and invest a little and are diligent about their finances. And yet, you are decrying this very thing. Your bitter contempt for anyone not wanting to play the game the way you do is repugnant.

      Primarily this rant and continued mantra of “nurf high sec income to make people come to low/null” is simply null bear and bitter vet QQ because you want more easy kills and targets. It's understandable, it happens with every adrenaline inducing activity no matter what. The addiction sets in and you push for more and bigger hits as you get dulled to the rush of each passing thrill.

      I just hope the QQ of people like you and the idiot antics of people like Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco don't end up taking a dump in the sandbox and killing the game. You really have no idea how close you may be.

  13. Up until the market changes, I was doing L4 missions with a trio of characters (myself, my alt, and a buddy of mine who's new to the game as of this year). It was a decent way for him to get to grips with the game as he learned, and we made decent money. I even got myself a navy megathron for doing them in.

    Now, though, with him working a night job and me concerned with graduating college this year, we don't really run them anymore. Honestly the only reason I haven't sold that navy mega is that if I do need to make money, missions are about all I can do right now. I suppose I could try out incursions, but they don't really appeal to me. The idea is neat, but I'm much more happy playing eve with close friends than random people I don't know.

    Lately my friend and I have turned to exploration as something for us to do whenever he has time (with the occasional wormhole). I fly a HAC and an Orca to truck us around, and he scans things down in a probe and switches out to his hurricane when we want to do a site. It's much more involving than sitting in a mission pocket and blapping ships one by one... not by a whole lot, but still. And the occasional escalations and faction drops keep us coming back.

    It sort of highlights the underlying problem I have with missions. It's something I think we all agree on... they're goddamn boring. Which is kind of amazing considering you're fighting off waves of pirate battleships and cruisers.

    L4 missions are just so... calculated. Everything about them is a known factor. You can specifically tailor your fit and flying to any given mission and it becomes trivial - a matter of carrying out a list of commands, instead of any actual flying or decision making.

    I don't see why PVE has to be the weakest part of EVE. Yes, it's all about the player-driven sandbox. Great, fine, lovely. That doesn't mean we have to abandon PVE and let it fester in the corner. What was that statistic, something like 70% of eve players live in highsec? If the point of eve is to get as many people together as possible, that doesn't mean they have to be blowing each other up.

    Incursions were a very good idea, but I think they need to expand on that. Make them matter more. Put Sansha rats on the gates and stage battles near stations and belts between Sansha and the local military. Make it an actual INCURSION, an occupation, a real tangible thing. Maybe when I drop by a station in an incursion zone and see a bunch of Sansha engaged with the local police, I decide to help them out - a sort of dynamic event similar to Guild Wars 2's system.

    Hell, maybe incursions delay CONCORD. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they make the system instant low-sec, but perhaps CONCORD takes 2 or 3 times as long to show up, even more. Evoke that feeling of chaos and lawlessness that should be there for a hostile takeover. Looting and pillaging should be more rampant.

    Right now the only reason I know an incursion is going on is that the screen turns golden brown when I'm passing through. Woop-de-fucking-do. Some incursion!

    1. If you go to a low or null incursion you'll find Sansha running (VERY) effective gatecamps and bouncing stations/belts -- I've seen some PvP corps and alliances that could learn a thing or two from how Sansha run gatecamps, the zombies really know how to force a fight. :-)

      Otherwise? I pretty much totally agree, and that's why I ding on L4s and all so much, you can go to any one of several websites and be told exactly what fit is optimal, what ships to shoot in what order to avoid triggering full aggro, etc ... follow the steps and get handed your payout.
      Dynamic missions would be FTW, and so would any other "dynamic" content CCP could cook up that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Incursions or missioning.

      Thing is -- while the players make the "content" in the sandbox, the actual design of the box is pretty static. Belts can be wiped out by bots, come downtime, though, right back up to full. Nothing any player does will ever change the sec status of a system. Even FW, sure they can take "sov" in lowsec systems ... but as soon as they hit that hisec border, their influence ends. There's no ability to affect the sec status of hostile systems, or to mount major offensives to take hisec territory... the Amarr militia can't "take" HED-GP "in the name of the Empire!" and all that ...

      CCP gave us a sanbox, and that was good, but it has definite and artificial limitations and boundaries.
      To be truly great, they need to give us Arrakis.

  14. Missions should pay about as much as mining. Marauders are glorified Hulks anyway.

    1. CCP seems to feel that mining should pay more.

  15. I do missions to earn isk to buy pvp-ships.

    That income has been nerfed hard and I find myself struggling to buy ships to pvp. Mind you, I'm not good at pvp but I enjoy it. CCP just made it really hard for me to do the stuff I like. (getting my ships blown up)

    In fact we organized a mission fleet monday evening with 8 people. It was not worth doing.

    Market bots + loot nerf + drone nerf + tech cartel + incursion nerf + speculation (maybe + hulkageddon) made everything really expensive and this has hurt the poor and new players most. Imo this does not increase the ammount of pvp and thus is not good for the game.

    The thing that bothers me most is the cost of T1 ships. T2 getting less accessible I can live with, but the cost of T1 makes casual pvp for newer players a lot harder.

    My 0.02cents


  16. And the most hilarious thing about this is, that CCP is nerfing highsec to make the most boring gameplay EVER invented(mining) profitable again. AND to force people out of high-sec.

    Repeating: "TO FORCE PEOPLE"

    Clue: forcing somebody who voluntarily pays you to play your game while there are a myriad of other FREE options -> bad idea.

  17. LP value has dropped dramatically for me since the incursion nerf. So hard that my income drop by at least 25%, and I was not looting or salvaging before anyway because it was not worth it before already.

  18. I always found that L4s with more than 2 BS's it becomes overkill but it is pretty cool to have people in various roles so that you can cope with different situations that the L4s throw at you (ie, having a mixture of 'up close' and 'sniper' ships so that you can reduce movement required).

    As for the income factor I think that is quite interesting because at the end of the day it should really come down to what that player needs to DO with it.

    Assuming that the average L4 missioner has a good ship and generally won't lose that ship what other expenses do they really have?

    Speaking from experiance my income has slowly and gradually increased over time and I've never felt that it was too low simply because I (mostly) enjoy the L4s and they more than cover my expenses for running them (ammo pretty much); even to the point where I look at my wallet and think "wow - what do I even SPEND this on?"

    For me as a L4 bear the income is a reflection of my progress and as long as it moves in the right direction I'm happy and any investment that allows that direction to speed up also makes me happy but also gives me the oppertunity to try out a few new things and experiment with other activities knowing that I have the money to cover the expenses and the backup plan of going back to L4s if they turn out to be unfruitful.

    To be honest I found that loot and salvage prices are stupidily low to be worthwhile - but the worth is only based on how much I can SELL those items for. So I simply don't sell them - I sell the meta 3 & 4 items, reprocess everything else and make my own ammo from the materials and my own rigs from the salvage; its not as consistant as I'd like but its something and to me its worth more than simply 'throwing it away' to those market jackels who have already deemed it worthless.

    I think PLEX prices are the standard measurement of how well your doing and if your income stream is sufficiant to pay for at least 1 PLEX a month (to play for free) then you're doing well. Anything under that rate is seen as too slow as you risk actually having to pay real money to play your beloved game.

  19. On the flip side, L4s are also easier to run these days.

    The old non-AI NPCs have not changed a whit since they were first created, but player ships, weapons, and tanks have significantly improved due to "ship balancing" power creep over the years.

    5-6 years ago, running an L4 solo was a bit of a challenge; today, most can be done semi-AFK in a T1-fit BS. A small BS gang can actually run a dozen or so L4s in a couple of hours, killing NPCs as quickly as they can be targeted. And, a single Noctis can clean up the loot & salvage in a fraction of the time which was required by the old dessie salvagers.

    So, while L4s have been nerfed in terms of loot drops, they have also effectively been stealth nerfed in terms of difficulty, as well. It all sort of balances out, IMHO.

  20. Right now, I salvage just 2 missions: Blood Blockade and Angel Extravaganza. If a Blockade and Worlds happen to spawn in the same systemn, the Worlds will be salvaged to (Noctis has now more than enough cargo to hold the loot from 2 missions). Any other mission is curently abandoned right after the mission completion was triggered.

    However, this change is a perfect stealth-buff for Marauders - have to grab one of these babies again. (Damn you, Paladin's damage-bonus!)
    And something inside me is so happy about the pirate-BS/T3 receiving a little nerf. =)

  21. Before the most recent nerf, I was able to get about 54.7M isk/hour using a Nightmare to run missions with an alt in a Noctis following along salvaging simultaneously. Of that income, 42.9% was bounties, 20.0% was LP, 4.9% was drone alloys, 15.1% was salvage, and 17.0% was loot. I'm currently under a wardec so I can't re-run the numbers right now, but the worst case is something like 45.4 M isk/hour. Realistically it will be higher since some valuable loot still drops.


  22. agreed. VG's are getting about 50-60M ISK an hour. That's about 9.4M isk per site and each site runs about 9-12 minutes long

  23. Not mentioned much yet: Incursions get people together on voice coms, where much fun is to be had. If I had to make a living doing solo L4s, or incursions, I'd do incursions. I met some nifty people that way.

    1. For folks looking to make ISK, why not check out the Making ISK guide. There is also a decent blog over at Full Disclosure.

      I wonder how many folks are doing L4s because that is all they know how to do?


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