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This guide is intended as an introduction to the topic, but also covers more advanced areas.
Exploration is a way of making money that can be skilled into very easily and that also scales up well if you invest more time and SP in it. The basic principle is that there are hidden sites in many systems in New Eden, called Cosmic Signatures. An explorer will go out looking for those sites and, using a Probe launcher, will scan them for what they contain. There are several types of signatures, Combat, Gas, Relic and Data Sites, as well as Wormholes.
An explorer is looking to find Relic and Data Sites. They contain a number of cans that have to be hacked in order to get access to their contents. Hacking is done via a minigame that follows the same rules for all cans but varies in difficulty and requires different modules to initiate depending on the type of site.
The contents of the cans are salvage, BPCs, commodities and various items used for building or inventing advanced ships or modules.
The entry level ships are the four T1 frigates with bonuses towards exploration. There is one for every empire faction and while they have their differences, they share some characteristics: all of them are weak in terms of dps and tank, since they are designed to be used with cloaks. If you use them in Low- or Nullsec, you will have to learn the MWD-Cloak-Trick and use it to avoid gatecamps.
While the Imicus and the Probe share a balanced 3-4-3 slot layout, the Heron has five midslots and only two low slots, while the Magnate has four low slows and only three mids.
The advantage of the Heron is that it allows the player to fit one or two scan upgrades in the mid slot(s) (depending on if a cargo scanner is used in the fit), so it makes the scanning process easier, while the Magnate with four low slots allows for better protection (for example by fitting four Warp Core Stabilizers to protect against being pointed). The Imicus and the Probe with their layout are able to either fit the cargo scanner or a scan upgrade, while having three low slots offering some degree of protection.
All fits have one comparatively expensive module fitted, the Improved Cloaking Device II. This is required for the MWD-Cloak-Trick. You can replace it for the T1 version, but this has a big impact on your safety while travelling.
You can import the fits from below to EVE by copying the text (including the [Heron, Heron scanner] part at the top), then opening the fitting window in EVE, clicking on “Browse”, then “Import from Clipboard”.
|Heron Fit 1||Heron Fit 2|
[Heron, Heron scanner] Nanofiber Internal Structure I Nanofiber Internal Structure I 5MN Microwarpdrive I Relic Analyzer I Data Analyzer I Cargo Scanner I Scan Rangefinding Array I Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I Improved Cloaking Device II [Empty High slot] Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I Small Emission Scope Sharpener I [Empty Rig slot]
[Heron, Heron upgrades] Nanofiber Internal Structure I Nanofiber Internal Structure I 5MN Microwarpdrive I Relic Analyzer I Data Analyzer I Scan Pinpointing Array I Scan Rangefinding Array I Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I Improved Cloaking Device II [Empty High slot] Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I Small Emission Scope Sharpener I [Empty Rig slot]
|The Difference between the two fits is only a mid slot and there are many other ways to fit it (like going for a short align time). However, these fits will boost your scanning and relic hacking, so it is easier to find sites and be successful in them. If you are only just starting out, you will still fail to scan down some sites and you will fail hacks, but with increasing experience and SP, it will get easier.|
|Magnate Fit 1||Magnate Fit 2|
[Magnate, Magnate Max WCS] Warp Core Stabilizer I Warp Core Stabilizer I Warp Core Stabilizer I Warp Core Stabilizer I Relic Analyzer I Data Analyzer I 5MN Microwarpdrive I Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I Improved Cloaking Device II [Empty High slot] Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I Small Emission Scope Sharpener I [Empty Rig slot]
[Magnate, Magnate Align] Inertial Stabilizers I Inertial Stabilizers I Inertial Stabilizers I Warp Core Stabilizer I Relic Analyzer I Data Analyzer I 5MN Microwarpdrive I Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I Improved Cloaking Device II [Empty High slot] Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I Small Emission Scope Sharpener I [Empty Rig slot]
|The first fit will allow you to pass gatecamps even if you make mistakes with the MWD-Cloak-Trick, as long as you don't get too many points on you. The severe downside is the fact that WCS (Warp Core Stabilizers) increase your locking time, which means that with this fit, locking up cans to hack them will take approximately forever (give or take a few years), so you'd have to bring a mobile depot to get rid of them once you are in a site. The second fit is an example of what you can do to reduce your align time. Since the align time is different depending on your skills, you should use an out of game fiting tool like EFT or Pyfa to see which combination of rigs and low slot modules gives you the best result. Both fits have less scan strength than the Heron fits above, since the Magnate is missing two mid slots.|
|Imicus Fit||Probe Fit|
[Imicus, agility] Nanofiber Internal Structure II Nanofiber Internal Structure II Nanofiber Internal Structure II 5MN Y-T8 Compact Microwarpdrive Relic Analyzer I Data Analyzer I Scan Rangefinding Array I Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I Improved Cloaking Device II [Empty High slot] Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I [Empty Rig slot] Hornet EC-300 x4
[Probe, agility] Nanofiber Internal Structure II Nanofiber Internal Structure II Nanofiber Internal Structure II 5MN Y-T8 Compact Microwarpdrive Data Analyzer I Relic Analyzer I Scan Rangefinding Array I Prototype Cloaking Device I Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I [Empty High slot] Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I [Empty Rig slot] Hornet EC-300 x3
|The Probe an the Imicus share a slot layout, so the fits are the same. You can of course go for Warp Core Stabilizers or tank (similar to the Magnate). In terms of low and mid slots, the Imicus and Probe are more ballanced than the Heron and Magnate, so unless you favor a specific fit (max scan strength, or safety) they are excellent ships.|
Unless you want to scare off other explorers or want some additional safety, the T2 Exploration Frigates are the next logical steps after the T1 frigates. They offer the huge advantage of a Covops Cloak. This cloak is an upgrade over the normal cloaks used with the T1 ships and allows you to warp while cloaked, making it very hard to catch you (Big gatecamps with bubbles are still a danger to avoid). The fits work similar to the T1 frigates, but since they are heavily skill dependant, you will have to find out what works for you on your own. If you haven't done so already, get EFT or Pyfa or EveHQ to play around with fits. Basic stats to aim for are a Probe Scan Strength of 95 (or higher), to be able to reliably scan down all sites and a short align time.
The T2 explo-frigates are the Helios, the Buzzard, the Anathema and the Cheetah.
Another option when it comes to T2 frigates are Interceptors. They don't have a bonus towards exploration, but can be fit to be “insta-warp” (align time of less than 2s) and are bubble immune, so for null sec exploration they have a certain advantage. If you specialise in one type of exploration (relic or data), then you can use rigs and modules to focus on that and mitigate the lack of a hull bonus a bit. Fits again depend on your skills (especially for the align time), so you will have to find out on your own what works for you.
Interceptors that can be fit to insta-warp are the Ares, the Raptor, the Stiletto and the Crusader.
Sisters of Eve
The SoE ships are faction ships, making them much more expensive that normal T1 and T2 ships of the same size. They do offer some advantages, like a non-level-based bonus on your scanning (however if you train the T2 frigates to five they will have a higher bonus) and more safety, since they feature some defensive capabilities. The Astero, the SoE frigate, also can be fit to insta-warp very easily. Since the ships are drone boats, they can easily kill other explorers (and are often used by hunters who just take an interest in killing them) so you will be able to secure sites you otherwise would not get.
The downside of the Astero is the significant price tag, compared to the T1 and T2 frigates. Unless you know what you are doing or looted a Titan recently, don't use them!
In terms of fits, the options are a travel fit with some tank, combat fit, full tank, travel fit with extra cargo hold for longer trips, etc. When you are getting your first Astero, you already should have an idea of what you are doing, so finding a fit that works for you shouldn't be too hard. It is still recommended you talk to someone with experience using them, before you set out.
The Atero also allows you to do the Sleeper Cache sites, high end exploration sites. They come in three sizes: Limited, a site for frigates you can do in any exploration ship (if you can scan it down), Standard, designed for cruisers, but you can still do part of it in an Astero, and Superior, designed for very tanky ships, but, with some planning, you can do most of it in an Astero (all of it, but that requires luck and a lot of experience with the specific site).
The bigger version of the Astero is the Stratios. It is cruiser sized, has much more tank, dps and a larger cargohold, enabling it to carry multiple refits and more cargo.
It can also be used as a pure combat ship, but for the purpose of this guide we will stick with the exploration role. The Stratios can fit a covops cloak like the Astero and the T2 frigates and can force any of them out of a site. It presents the next step up over the astero in that regards. It has a huge drone bay, can deal massive damage and if fit properly can tank the damage in a Standard sleeper Cache (a high end exploration site) easily. Fits depend on your needs, but you always should use a travel fit and a tank fit, since you will need it for the Sleeper Cache sites (not doing them when you are in a Stratios is a waste of money). You can not do the Limited Site, since the Stratios is too big for it, but the Standard can be done completely. In the Superior site you can do the same parts as the Astero, but with less effort, since your tank won't be stressed.
The third ship in the SoE line is the Nestor. It is a battleship, and while it has an exploration bonus, usually isn't used for exploration (excluding some special cases where you have a Sleeper Chache close to you and can use a Nestor to easily run it. The Nestor has too many downsides to be used in exploration, it can't fit a covops cloak, it is slow (both in warp and in sites) and easy to catch, making it a billion ISK wreck waiting to happen.
T3s are the most versatile ships in the game and it is this versatility that allows them to participate in exploration. Due to their subsystems they can be fit to ignore bubbles, use a covops cloak and maintain a reasonable tank and align time as well as carry refits with them.
The ship, no matter which you pick, will be the most expensive of all the exploration ships. The hull itself costs less than the Stratios, but with the subsystems and fits, you will have to spend more than half a billion ISK. It can be worth the price however, since the only downside of using a T3 cruiser for exploration is the relatively small cargohold, so you'll have to drop off your loot more often than with the Stratios, limiting your range a bit. The advantages are significant: you are very close to being uncatchable, can tank the damage of even a Superior Sleeper Cache (at least the “massive Waves” in the last room, to tank the “colssal” ones you will need more than 100k tank and very good reps) and will be able to scare away other exlporation ships, since they won't know how much DPS you can dish out (you could be combat fit after all… don't fully rely on this however, some people will call your bluff!).
When you do exploration you can do it in any part of New Eden. High Sec offers relative safety (unless your exploration character is in Brave), but the payouts are very low compared to the other areas of space. Low sec has higher risk and payouts, but the absence of bubbles makes it a good starting ground. Make sure you don't warp into a smartbombing gatecamp and you should be fine. Null Sec has again more risk (bubbles!) and payout, but since many systems have next to no activity, once you get away from High/Low Sec you will be mostly undisturbed (unless you jump into someones staging system). Wormhole Space also has relic and data sites, but most of those can't be done in an explo frigate, since they contain rats. In C1, C2 and C3 wormholes however you can find faction sites (they have the same names as the sites in normal space, with a faction name (Sansha, Guristas,…) in their name. While they can give you aggod payout (they are the same as Null Sec sites) you have to be very careful in Wormholes, since you can't rely on local and in general you always have to expect a cloaky T3 to sit right next to you, whenever you are in a wormhole. When you go there, be paranoid, even more so than in null.
|Suggested levels of paranoia per Sec:|
|Space Type||Skill Level|
|High Sec||train Paranoia to level 1, just to be sure|
|Low Sec||Paranoia 3 or higher is a must.
Watch out for other people in local, use DScan a lot.
|Null Sec||Paranoia 5 and Advanced Paranoia 3 are a must have.
Look up peoples killboards, DScan, watch local like a hawk, don't do anything hasty (like uncloaking) without being sure you are safe.
|Wormhole Space||Paranoia 5 and Advanced Paranoia 5 are necessary to survive.
If you go there without your paranoia skills maxed out, drop off your cargo a lot, so you don't lose it all when that cloaky Proteus and his Loki friend appear next to you.
Where to base out of?
For your own explo-staging system, you have to consider a few things: If you have a dedicated character for exploration, it might be best to put it close to where you want to explore, since that reduces travel time. You can then use that character (or another one, for example in an interceptor) to get your loot to a trade hub. An example for this would be having your staging in an NPC null system and then roaming the surrounding regions. If you do not have a dedicated character, you have three options:
- Staging from your corporation's staging, which could be dangerous if you have hostiles around a lot or staging from a few jumps out so you are in a quieter area (both will have the advantage that you get to your explo ship in no time, but the way to where you want to look for sites might be longer)
- Staging like above, but you start each explo trip by looking for wormholes to get you to null/low/wehrever you want to go. This gives you far greater range and flexibility, but it also has a random element to it, since you don't know where you will end up.
- Staging where you want to explore and either traveling there or having a jump clone you can use. The jump clone option will reduce your time from “I want to do explo” to your first site, but it also means you won't be able to just come back, and you are best off with a second, inty-capable character to get your loot out.
Where to go?
This is probably the question that is most up to taste, skills, the ship you use, etc. If you are new to exploration, try to work your way up in difficulty, so you have some funds for when you lose a ship. When you are a bit more experienced, try out new things and find your sweet spot, where risk, reward and the sites you are doing all are to your liking. To give solid advice here is hard. You might like the prospect of staging in Thera, or in a high sec system close to a few null sec entries, or that being close to your corp at all times trumps the higher income you might get from longer trips. Ideas for staging:
- Thera - very dangerous, but if you are dedicated and like the randomness you will have a good time. Maybe get some experience before you give it at try.
- NPC Null - if you find a good system with good conections to empty null space, this is a good option and will give you high income, but you also have some risk (bubbles, people hunting explorers) and you are more limited to a specific area, unless you take wormholes.
- Low Sec - try to stay away from Faction Warfare space, since you will find more activity and many people hunting other players there. The advantages here are that you are close to high sec (to get your loot to safety) and no bubbles, something that can prove deadly to exploration ships.
- High Sec - while the sites in high sec are highly contested and don't pay too much, they are a good starting ground to familiarize yourself with the hacking minigame. Also there are a few high sec systems that are close to null sec entries to give you easy access to better space. (Be aware: these entry systems are often camped, so check dotlan/the in-game map for recent kills before you go there!)
Searching for Sites
Relic and Data Sites have certain mechanics they spawn after. Each region of space has a type of rats that spawns there (In Stain you will find Sansha rats for exampl, while in Fountain it would be Serpentis, etc.) and the type of rat that lives in the region also defines the faction of the Explo Sites. The Sites themselves are more or less the same, but the loot in the cans varies, and because of that, you will find more valuable loot in some space (Sansha space being the prime example for good loot). In Wormhole Systems, you will find an entirely different type of sites, those have rats in them and require more than a T1 frigate to run. The main scope of this guide are the sites that can be found in normal space, so we'll ignore them. The other exception to this rule are the Drone Regions. There, you won't find Relic sites, and the Data Sites have loot that is completely different from all other space. While they can drop valuable Items, in general you won't find enough of them to make up for thir rarity.
When it comes to looking for all those sites, planning where you want to go is the key to successfull exploration trips. The systems most likely to contain sites are the ones that don't get visited a lot, since the sites spawn randomly in a type of space (type of space means the same faction of rats spawn there in this case). Going after those systems gives you another advantage: if nobody goes there, you won't be as likely to get shot at or encounter gate camps.
In general, finding a route with
- No or almost no active people (check the ingame map for active players in space)
- No recent kills (last hour, again: check the map)
- few recent jumps (map…)
will give you the best results. For the map, for now the old map offers better results (by being easier to read and to get an overview) than the Beta Map. You can switch between the two by pressing Escape, going to the General Settings Tab and toggling it in the Experimental Features section.
If you have a route planned, your ship ready and some people on comms to talk to (or a good playlist (or both)), you are ready to start your journey. Once you undock, make sure to have both the probe scanner window and the D-Scan window open. If you have non-blues in your starting system, skip it and head on to the next one, someone might have seen you undock and is now looking for that juicy explo frig to kill you. Once you are in the next system, there is a simple check list to go after:
- Is there a signature to scan for? If there is not, continue to the next system
- If there is at least one signature, how does local look? If you are not in High Sec and there is a neutral or hostile in system, go to the next system.
- If local is empty, drop probes, warp to a safe spot, or, if you don't have one warp to a celestial (Planet or Asteroid Belt) at range.
- If you don't have a safe, press Ctrl+b while in warp and make a bookmark that you can use as a weak safe.
- Once you are in safe (or while you are in warp) open the system map to start scanning
scanning, spawn mechanics, travel advice…
Data and Relic Sites
When you activiate the hacking module on a can in a site, this is the first thing you will see. The first thing to take notice of is the orange circle at the top left corner. This is your 'starting' point for the hack. From there, you can only click on nodes that are connected to an orange node.
Futher down, at the bottom left you will see this. This shows your 'stats' for the hack. These stats are based on your skills and modules. Right near the '1' you will see what your current 'health' is at, and the bar to the left is the visual representation of that. Opposite the health bar is the damage bar, which the numerical representation at the number '2' position. This is the amount of damage you will be doing when you click on hostile nodes.
Before you start hacking, you'll need to find a suitable 'can' to hack. There are a few different kinds of 'cans' in the site. In order of increasing value, they are : Rubble/Com Towers < Remains/Mainframe < Ruins/Databank
In each hack, you will encounter several types of hostile nodes, helpful tools, and the Core Node. The health and damage on the nodes is represented in the same way as your own stats.
Once you've started hacking, there is a very easy way to determine if you are getting close to a Tool node or the Core Node. When you click on a fresh node, you will see , with numbers ranging from 5+ to 1. The basic idea is to follow the nodes as the numbers get smaller.
All of the Core nodes function in the same way, with an increasing health as the difficulty of the hack increases. These are the nodes found in the sites.
This Regen node is the second most annoying node you will encounter. This is one of the nodes you will need to kill as soon as it pops up. It has a high health and low damage, but what makes this node dangerous is that with each click, or turn, this node will increase the health of every other node on the grid. This node take 3-4 click to take down with 20-30 damage taken.
This Halving node will ruin a hack for you. It doesn't deal a lot of damage, but it has high health. What makes this node the most dangerous is that once revealed, your damage will be halfed. It will take 4-6 clicks to take this node down, while you takes 45-70 in damage. If at all possible, you will want to use the one of the tool nodes to take this thing down.
The following hacking tools, and how you use them, will make or break a hack. The tools will show up when you uncover a node on the grid, and once you click that same node they will be added to your 'toolbar'. To activate one of the tools, simply click on it.
This is the Halving Tool. This is hands down the best tool to uncover on a grid. After activation, you can click on a hostile node and take that node down to half of its health. For most hostile nodes, this means that you will take the node down in 1-2 clicks. Save these for the Regen node or the Halving node.
At this time, the Random node is only 'other' kind of node you will encounter. This node will randomly give you a tool or create a hostile node. These nodes can really mess up your hack though, so approach with caution. The best way to deal with these nodes is to first uncover all of the nodes surrounding this node before uncovering the Random node itself.
Sleeper Cache Sites
These sites come in three flavors. Limited, Standard and Superior. The hacking remains the same in each of these caches. The main difference are the step required to safely run these sites. This added difficulty also increases the reward.
After you scan out the site, you will warp to the first room. Here you will see a can and an acceleration gate. Hack the can.
The second room is where things get difficult. You start by hacking the Remote Pressure Stabilizer to the right. Right after you hack this can, you'll need to rush over to the Dented Storage Depot. You will only have 2-3 minutes to hack the can. After you do, immediately return to the warp in beacon or you'll get hit by the gas cloud.
The next step is to hack the Remote Defense Grid Unit. After you hack this can, you will have free access to the rest of the cans. You will need to watch out for the gas clouds and avoid those areas. Hack the remaining cans and enjoy the spoils!
what to expect, where you can sell it, what it can be used for
combat explo, selling sites, probing for fleets…