Agent missions are one of EVE Online's most popular pastimes. While EVE is most often lauded for its open-ended gameplay, player-determined markets and PvP action, a significant portion of the game's players use missions as their primary income source. There is something comforting about missions that seems to draw players in. For many, running missions and upgrading their ship with the ISK becomes the focus of their achievements and their primary measure of progress. The ability of mission-running to provide a direct translation of effort into a stable ISK income offers us a reassuringly linear work-to-reward scheme in a relatively risk-free environment. Missions and exploration are EVE's primary PvE experiences and new missions are released with each major expansion to help keep the game fresh for casual players. There are even several epic mission arcs planned for the future, long sequences of storyboarded missions much like the quest chains you might find in other MMOs.
In this multi-part guide, I will thoroughly examine the profession of mission-running, from the basics to ship fittings and finally some tips and tricks for maximising your performance. In this first part of the guide, I look at the basics of mission-running from mission types and rewards to agent standings and how to find the best agent for you.
Types of mission – Kill / Encounter:
Kill missions are the most commonly run type and they can be quite fun to complete. In a kill mission, you're sent into an area with hostile NPC ships to destroy and objectives to complete. Upon warping to the mission area, a pocket of deadspace is created and the mission area spawns inside it. Deadspace disrupts your ship's warp drive, preventing the use of microwarpdrives and stopping you from warping directly to any point within the pocket. Warping out of the pocket is still possible but when warping to any point inside it, your warp tunnel is redirected to a certain set of coordinates marking the entrance to the pocket. In some missions, the entrance puts you directly into the combat area but in many you're warped to a special warp gate used to enter the deadspace pocket. The warp gate will also restrict the size of ships allowed to enter, a feature which is primarily used to stop people running lowsec missions in capital ships.
Level 1 or 2 kill missions can be as simple as warping in to kill a few frigates or rogue drones and are intended for pilots in frigates, destroyers and cruisers. Level 3 and 4 kill missions tend to be more involved, with multiple stages or waves of enemy ships. Level 3 missions typically house NPC cruisers and battlecruisers to kill while level 4 missions will have many battleship class NPCs, making them the most popular and profitable class of mission. Extremely tough and group-oriented level 5 missions also exist, with several level 5 agents placed in areas of low security space. Objectives in the deadspace area will range from complete annihilation of every NPC in the mission to collecting stolen items from a container, destroying a certain building or killing a certain named NPC. Upon completion of the main objective, the mission journal updates and the mission can be handed in.
Types of mission – Courier / Trade:
Courier missions are simple tasks involving moving something from one system to another. The cargo can be as small as a single 1m3 speciality item that can be quickly carried in a shuttle or it could be large enough to require an industrial ship or freighter. Some courier missions ask you to carry generic items like trade goods and can be completed by purchasing the items at the destination if they exist on the market and then simply speaking to your agent again. Most courier missions, however, use specialist items that you absolutely must haul to complete. Due to the relative cheapness of the items being hauled, courier mission runners aren't a good target for suicide attacks. As a result, courier missions are a great way to make isk while doing another task that demands attention. A slow but sufficient method of completing courier missions it to simply set your ship on autopilot and be careful to decline any jobs that go through low security space.
Trade missions are a special type of courier mission in which the agent requests everyday items or trade goods that you have to purchase on the open market, build or acquire via some other means. Similarly, mining missions require the user to collect certain types of ore and deliver them to the stated location. Trade and mining missions are uncommon and not very popular, especially as some mining missions now contain special mission-only ores that aren't available on the open market.
Read on to the second part of this week's instalment, where I look at the rewards obtained from missions and how to pick the best agent for you.