- 1 Getting Started as an Explorer
- 2 Exploration Using Probes
Getting Started as an Explorer
Much like Mining, Exploration doesn't require a high skill level to get started. The three basic Exploration related skills are...
- Astrometrics (+5% scan strength per level, -5% max scan deviation per level, -5% scan probe scan time per level)
- Astrometrics allows you to use a Probe Launcher to launch (crazily enough) Scan Probes which are used to locate hidden exploration sites filled with loot, enemies you can destroy, valuable gas clouds, or even wormholes to unknown parts of space!
- New characters start their career with Astrometrics 1, but existing characters can easily obtain the skillbook from the Exploration tutorial missions.
- While Astrometrics is less required than it was pre-Odyssey, the array of bonuses it provides is very useful, and any true explorer should plan to raise it to at least level 4, which is required to learn the advanced skill Pinpointing.
- Archaeology (Required skill for the use of Relic Analyzer modules. Gives +10 Virus Coherence per level.)
- Archaeology is required to operate Relic Analyzers, which are a fairly cheap mid-slot module used to interact with structures found inside exploration-located Relic Sites. A good amount of your income as an explorer will come from accessing these structures, so this is an important skill!
- Higher skill levels make the minigame associated with opening Relic Site structures easier, with Archaeology 5 allowing you to use the more-powerful Relic Analyzer II module. This is a significant upgrade, so any serious explorer should plan to eventually max this skill out.
- Hacking (Required skill for the use of Data Analyzer modules. Gives +10 Virus Coherence per level.)
- Like Archaeology, Hacking is required to use Data Analyzers, which open structures found in Data Sites. Hacking 1 is slightly harder to train to than Archaeology 1, but make sure you get both skills: Data Sites tend to be a bit more lucrative than Relic Sites, and trust me, you won't want to miss out on any sites you find!
- Also like Archaeology, higher skill levels make the Hacking minigame easier, and Hacking 5 will give you access to a more powerful hacking module.
There are some additional skills you can train as you advance in your exploration career to make finding hidden exploration sites easier.
- Astrometric Rangefinding (+5% probe scan strength)
- Astrometric Pinpointing (-5% maximum scan deviation)
- Both these skills make it easier to track down difficult-to-find sites. Rangefinding can be learned and trained at the start of your career, if you are so inclined, while Pinpointing requires Astrometrics 4 as a prerequisite.
- Astrometric Acquisition (-5% scan time)
- Not as important at the start of your career, Acquisition speeds up how long a single scanning cycle takes: the default is approximately 10 seconds. Later on, when you are scanning in hostile territory, or attempting to probe for the location of an enemy ship, Acquisition becomes an important supplemental skill, but as a new explorer, patience is a more than adequate substitute.
Any ship with a high slot can fit a Probe Launcher and start to explore. This is a useful fact to keep in mind as you advance in your career and start thinking about fitting ships to accomplish multiple tasks (i.e., explore in hostile territory, explore and complete any Combat Sites located).
However, a new explorer would be best served flying a ship specifically designed for exploration: a Tech 1 Exploration Frigate. Each race has one...
All give a 7.5% increase to scan strength of probes per Racial Frigate level, as well as a static +5 bonus to the Virus Strength of any Relic or Data Analyzers you fit. Each also gives a small bonus to Salvager cycle time, in case you occasionally use your ship to salvage wrecks. Useful bonuses all around!
Feel free to use whichever one is easiest for you to fly, likely the one of your starting race, as they all run pretty close in effectiveness. If you're open to cross-training and would like some further subjective guidance, the Imicus is perhaps the best choice of those four owing to its extra drone capacity, while the Magnate suffers somewhat from having only three mid slots, which is just barely enough to fit the three core modules required for exploration.
Equipment and Modifications
Probes and Probe Launchers
The key module required for exploration is the Probe Launcher, which fits in a ship's high slot. Probes and Probe Launchers are available in several different varieties, but for the beginning explorer, you should only be concerned with one type of each.
- Core Probe Launcher I
- Easy to fit, and does the job. It can only fire the most basic of probes, however, but this isn't a problem for the majority of explorers.
- Core Scanner Probe I
- The basic ammunition for the Core Probe Launcher. They are reusable, and the Core Probe Launcher can hold eight at a time. You can technically locate an exploration site with as few as four, but for convenience, it's a good idea to carry at least one full reload (8), or even several reloads. This guide will assume you have at least 8 probes in your cargo hold at all times.
Both of these items are also available as a more expensive Sisters of Eve Faction version.
- Sisters Core Probe Launcher
- Provides a 10% bonus to scan strength of probes, but is very expensive: as of 6/7/2013, it is selling for just over 55M ISK at Jita.
- Sisters Core Scanner Probe
- Sisters probes have 10% greater scan strength than the garden variety Core Scanner Probes. They're a bit expensive, but vastly more affordable than the Sisters launcher: as of 6/7/2013, they are selling for just over 700K ISK apiece at Jita.
Consider looking into these as an upgrade once you're starting to get the hang of exploration, but remember EVE Rule #1: don't use them if you can't afford to lose them!
Core Exploration Modules
In addition to your Probe Launcher for finding exploration sites, you'll need a few core pieces of equipment in order to effectively plunder what you find for loot! These are all modules that fit in mid slots on your frigate.
- Relic Analyzer I and Data Analyzer I
- As mentioned previously, these are required to access the loot structures in any Relic or Data Sites you find while exploring. You will definitely want both, and the vanilla level I version is perfectly fine to start out with.
- Cargo Scanner I
- Successfully accessing an exploration structure starts a short "twitch-based" encounter that involves tractor beaming loot containers into your ship's cargo hold. A Cargo Scanner makes this game easier by giving you advance notice of exactly which loot containers you should go after during the encounter. It will also tell you which structures in an exploration site are the most valuable, which becomes extraordinarily important if you get into a situation in which you're competing with another explorer for the loot!
While the above three are what I'd consider "core" modules for running exploration sites, I'd also strongly recommend fitting your ship with a 1MN Microwarpdrive module to make travel to and around scanned areas much easier. This makes a total of four mid slot modules, which is one more than the Amarr Magnate can slot. If you're piloting one of those, you'll have to make occasional decisions about which of these four modules to leave back at the station. In most situations, this should probably be the Microwarpdrive, but if you know for a fact that you will only be ransacking exploration sites of a single type (Relic or Data), you can always temporarily forgo the Analyzer of the type that you will not be using.
Rounding Out Your Fitting
After fitting your Probe Launcher and exploration modules, you'll have some space leftover for other equipment. What you choose here depends on your playstyle, but here are some general recommendations. It's also recommended that you take a peek at the Fitting Modules and Rigs Guide for more information on the sorts of options available to you here.
Most explorers will use a high slot to fit a cloaking device on their frigate: in this case, a Prototype Cloaking Device I. The topic of Cloaking is beyond the scope of this article, and generally unnecessary for any high-sec exploration that you undertake, but it's something to keep in mind for your future development as an explorer.
High-Sec PvE Combat
A reasonable option for a new explorer is adding a few modules to make your ship capable of handling some of the easier combat encounters that you'll encounter while probing high-sec space. Specific fits will vary depending on your choice of frigate, but some options include...
- You'll likely have one or two high slots available for weapon turrets or missile launchers. None of the Tier 1 Exploration Frigates get bonuses to weapons, so whatever racial weapon you've likely been cross-training would be appropriate here. Something longer range would likely be better: the Exploration Frigates are not built for slugging things out.
- An armor or shield tank
- Tanking is beyond the scope of this article, but thankfully the University has good lessons in place already for both Shield Tanking and Armour Tanking. Equipping your ship with a few appropriate tanking modules will increase its survival rate if you decide to tangle with easier NPC targets. Note that you should never try to build both a shield tank AND armour tank on the same ship, and that shield tanking generally requires mid slots, of which your exploration kit is already eating three. Beyond those caveats, a Shield Extender or some Armor Plates might make the difference between successful retreat and successful ejection from your freshly destroyed ship.
- A Salvager
- Salvaging the wrecks left by destroyed NPC ships is a great supplementary form of income for a new player, so consider strapping a Salvager I module to your frigate if you are going to tangle with Combat Sites. Note that if you are only taking your ship through non-Combat Sites (Data Sites and Relic Sites), a Salvager is not required. This wasn't the case previous to Odyssey! More info on salvaging can be found by reading Salvaging 101.
- Exploration Frigates aren't exactly built to destroy, but all of them can carry a payload of drones with them that will make quick work of NPC frigates. It's advisable to carry a full Drone Bay of appropriate light scout drones any time you are planning to run high-sec Combat Sites. Indeed, since they're very cheap and there is no downside to having them at hand, it's advisable to carry them anytime! Drones are useful in a wide variety of situations in Eve, so definitely give Drones 101 a read and learn more about these incredible little guys.
- Since you're going to be using drones offensively, a Drone Damage Amplifier is a good choice for a free low slot.
- Several new mid slot modules exist that increase your scanning abilities: the Scan Acquisition Array, the Scan Pinpointing Array and the Scan Rangefinding Array. While these may eventually be worth looking into as an upgrade, they are very new and thus very expensive, and more likely than not, you won't have the mid slots open for them anyway!
- Some low slot modules than increase ship agility and speed exist, namely Inertial Stabilizers, Nanofiber Structures and Overdrive Injectors. Speed is always useful, as it makes maneuvering between exploration site structures easier, and makes it more likely for you to escape if something goes wrong. Of the three modules listed, Nanofiber Structures are probably your best bet, as they raise several speed/agility related stats in exchange for a none-too-painful drawback.
The most likely rig that you'll want to toss onto an Exploration Frigate is the Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I, which increases probe scan strength by 10%. Oddly, it's mathematically better to fit two of the level I versions of this rig rather than try to slot the larger II version, which works out great if you're a low-skill explorer.
Exploration Using Probes
The main object of an explorer is to track down hidden areas found in systems across all of the EVE universe. These areas contain valuable items or other points of interest, but cannot be warped to initially. Instead, a player must use their ship's scanner and their Probe Launcher to track down the "signals" of these hidden areas through a process generally referred to as "probing", or "scanning", or "exploring". If you've ever heard someone mention that they are going to "probe down a site"... this is it!
At this point, it is assumed that you are in an exploration ready vessel, much like the one outlined in the above section, and that you are packing a payload of at least 8 Core Scanner Probes.
A Good Place to Start
When you first begin exploring, you will likely want to stick to high-security space: systems with a security status anywhere from 0.5 to 1.0. You will be pretty safe in these systems, but there are some best practices you can start to follow so that they are routine as you move into exploring more dangerous space.
- Explore in quiet systems
- Pop open your Star Map and set it to look for "Number of players in the last half hour". This will set your map to display large or small circles that indicate how much traffic a particular system has seen recently. In high-sec space, your biggest annoyance as an explorer will be other high-sec explorers: there are only so many exploration sites out there, and you will be racing other explorers for them. Areas with lots of traffic typically won't have any exploration sites of interest to you, and the ones that do appear will likely be pounced on by someone else. Don't get into a tug-of-war with other high-sec explorers: find a quiet stretch of systems somewhere and do your exploration there!
- Explore from a safe place
- While probing for exploration sites, your ship will be motionless for extended periods of time. This is dangerous in many parts of EVE. In high-sec, you will probably be perfectly safe idling some distance from a dockable station, or, say, 100km out from a planet. You will be even safer if you have a cloak fitted and activate it when you get to your spot. Indeed, you can explore cloaked so long as you remember to launch your probes first before engaging the cloaking device. In low-sec and other dangerous parts of space, you will want to explore from what's called a Safe Spot, and you will pretty much always want to be cloaked. You can find more info on locating and using Safe Spots in the Bookmarks lesson, and high-sec is a great place to get in the habit of using Safe Spots to explore unhindered!
Checking Your Ship Scanner
You've found a quiet system to explore and are safely nestled in a comfortable spot. Cocoa and blankets are optional. Time to explore! Pop open your ship's scanner using the little button on your ship's HUD that has a picture of a radar screen on it (or press ALT-D). While you were parking your ship somewhere, your scanner was busy! It's more than likely tracked down a few points of interest throughout the system. Note that if your scanner readout says "No Signals Detected", that means the system is currently empty. Head to a different system to explore, but note that you can always come back to this system again later to see if anything juicy has appeared.
There are two types of signal that your scanner may have just picked up: Cosmic Anomalies and Cosmic Signatures.
Cosmic Anomalies are areas of interest that radiate a strong enough signal that you can jump to them immediately after your ship scanner finds them. You don't need to do any fancy probing or anything: just click and go! Of course, since everyone can easily see these sites, they're typically less rewarding, and possibly more crowded than Cosmic Signatures.
Cosmic Anomalies come in two general types...
- Combat Sites
- These sites are a single area filled with several waves of NPC opponents. Blow them up for bounties and loot! Check the Cosmic Anomalies page for information on the general difficulty of these sites. If you built the High-Sec PvE Combat frigate outlined earlier, you should be able to handily deal with Cosmic Anomalies of the lowest two difficulties (Burrows and Hideaways).
- Ore Sites
- These sites are temporary pockets filled with either ice asteroids, which can be mined for fuel components, or regular asteroids of a rarer type not normally found in that system. You can tell what kind of asteroids are within the site by the site's name: they're pretty obvious. These can be interesting places to head if you've cross-trained as a miner, but remember, because they are so easily found, they will likely be filled with other pilots, both friendly and less so.
Cosmic Signatures are the bread and butter of an explorer. These are hidden areas that cannot be warped to unless tracked down by probes. Because of this extra step, Cosmic Signature exploration areas can be very lucrative, even in high-sec space!
When you first enter a system, none of its Cosmic Signatures will have any identifying information besides a generic designation, such as "MRM-213". However, much like Cosmic Anomalies, Cosmic Signatures come in several types. You just won't know exactly what you are tracking down until you pull out your probes!
- Combat Sites
- Combat Sites that are tracked as Cosmic Signatures are more complex than Cosmic Anomalies: indeed, they are complexes! Complexes are EVE's version of "dungeons". They are made up of several "rooms" of space connected by Acceleration Gates, and they frequently have containers filled with great loot. Of course, they are also guarded by large numbers of NPC ships. Cosmic Signature Combat Sites come in two general flavors, both of which are more difficult than the equivalent Cosmic Anomaly site: DED Complexes and Unrated Complexes. While the High-Sec PvE Combat frigate listed above might be able to clear the 1/10 difficulty version of these Combat Sites, you're probably better off fielding a separate, combat-oriented ship to deal with them. Just probe down the site's location, save it as a bookmark by right-clicking on it, then pilot a bigger, angrier ship in and enjoy!
- Relic Sites
- Relic Sites are locations filled with abandoned structures filled with salvage and other loot. Best of all, in high-sec space, they're filled only with valuables: no NPC defenders. Your exploration frigate can happily sail into these sites and use their Relic Analyzer on the structures within to pry out valuables. You'll have to play a little minigame to get at the loot, however, but this article will get to that soon!
- Data Sites
- Data Sites work much like Relic Sites, only they require a Data Analyzer to access, and typically contain more valuable loot items. Items worth millions of ISK frequently drop here even in high-sec, so keep a sharp eye out for them!
- Gas Sites
- Most high-sec Gas Sites are Nebulas, which are quiet, undefended areas that have several gas clouds that can be harvested with specialized, expensive equipment. Sadly, most high-sec gasses are not worth much ISK, either, meaning that most new explorers should avoid these sites. Gas Sites are more lucrative in lower-security space, which you likely won't venture into at first.
- Occasionally, a Gas Site may be a Lab or other facility that pirates have set up to harvest the gas for themselves. These areas are a combination of Combat Site and Data Site, and contain hackable structures that are guarded by NPC opponents.
- Wormholes are temporary gates that can take your ship from your current system to almost anywhere else in space, including dangerous "uncharted" areas referred to as "wormhole space" or "w-space". W-space areas contain the most lucrative exploration sites in the game, but all of them are guarded by powerful Sleeper NPCs, even the Relic and Data Sites that are so tame in high-sec. For these reasons, at the start of your career, you should leave wormholes alone... but don't forget about them! Later articles will go into how you can begin dipping your exploration toe into the vast, untamed pond of wormhole space.
Probing Down an Exploration Site
Your system has a few Cosmic Signatures listed, and you're well versed in what could possibly be out there. Let's probe one down.