I worked my way through the Exploration series of missions – great stuff.
The first mission was an introduction to using the ship scanner. It wasn’t much more than scan the area for a cosmic anomaly, travel to it, pick up an item, and return. Simple, and completing within the time limit meant a nice ISK bonus.
The second mission introduced more. By accepting the mission, I received a larger ship, a Navitas. It was in my cargo bay, and it took some scrutiny and memory jogging to remember that I had to “Assemble” the ship, and then board it by choosing “Make Active”. The instant I made that my active ship, the tutorial popped up a few info panes about insurance and boarding the ship. So, a little bit out of order there! I chose Platinum insurance, at a cost of ~12K ISK which would payout ~40K ISK. While I was at it, I checked my clone. My current clone level Alpha holds 900K skill points, and my very new char only has ~80K. I’ll be OK for a while on that front.
In the first stage of the mission, I looted an Exploration Ship for supplies: Core Scanner, Core Probe Launcher. The next stages covered various sites:
- Gravimetric; mining locations. Need mining gear and skills.
- Magnetometric; man-made “dormant” structures, ruins or abandoned. Need archaeology gear and skills.
- Radar; high electronic inteference, communications centers or data hubs. Need hacking gear and skills.
- Ladar; gas-cloud condensate areas, harvest to make boosters (drugs). Need gas cloud harvesting gear and skills.
This mission was all about reading information and traveling from area to area via acceleration gate. I didn’t have to use the equipment provided in the first stage. After reporting back to complete the mission, I received my reward of 151K ISK!
The goal of this mission was to scan for a Gravimetric site and return with proof. I was a little confused starting out because I wasn’t sure I had the right skills trained or gear fitted to my ship, but upon accepting the mission, an Aura tutorial popped up and said “you will need Astrometrics trained to level 1, and a Core Probe Launcher fitted to your ship”. The first mission mentioned training Astrometrics (I think the pacing of the second mission was to allow Astrometrics to complete while doing the tutorial) so I had that trained up already. I fitted the Core Probe Launcher and undocked to continue.
And… I got lost. The tutorial said to use the “silver control handles” to move the probe, but I couldn’t figure out where those were, or what to click to get them to display.
After clicking around for a bit (ugh!) I discovered that the other “Solar System Map” is the one I wanted. There is a “Solar System Map” tab and a “Solar System Map” button, on the Map control panel. It’s the button that displays the “silver box view”, not the tab. I think better wording would help that out as well.
It took me a while to triangulate on the Gravimetric site, partly due to challenges manipulating the probes and visualizing 3D scan volumes.
I finally got a 100% from the scan and warped off to the area to pick up proof that I found it. The area had some crazy looking asteroids ready for mining, plus a canister containing the proof I needed for the mission.
I’m going to watch some videos that Seamus Donohue of EVE University makes available – there is a series on the tutorial missions. The instructions provided in-game are adequate but I think some tips from the EVE Uni video series will also be really helpful.
The EVE University videos were fantastic and I picked up a lot of tips for Exploration and moving probes: shift- and alt- (or option-) click to move/control probes is very useful. Orbiting the station while scanning, to avoid slowly flying out of the solar system, is also a great tip. With this new information I went to practice in the next mission. Unlike the video, I did each scan separately, which takes longer, but I could use the practice doing it.
I took me several minutes to close in on the location, but I finally did it. The area had some floating space junk but I was just there to retrieve my proof of discovery.
This time the goal was to scan for a Radar site. I was provided with a Civilian Codebreaker, used to bypass security on the electronics systems inside. In this training area, it is risk free. However, in a real Radar site, failure to hack might alert owners to my presence.
I’m getting a bit faster; this scan only took half the time of the previous one. Most of that is due to handling the 3D view better as far as positioning probes, and moving them as a group. My mission reward was ISK and a skill book: Astrometric Pinpointing. I can’t train that until I train Astrometrics to level 4.
The final exploration mission was to scan for a Ladar site. These are the Gas Cloud Harvesting sites. I had some trouble zeroing in on the location… need more practice with probes and optimum triangulation setups. I narrow the location down to two points, meaning 3 probes can see it in their sphere, but screw up the next step and lose the signal, for some reason.
To help, I disabled a few of the probes and concentrated on getting their sphere to overlap the circles (when 2 probes detect a site) or the yellow points (when 3 probes detect a site). This worked pretty well and I finally found the Ladar site for this mission.
Final Exploration Reward
I finished up and received another ship, an Imicus! I couldn’t resist undocking and flying around enough to take a screenshot or two. It is very worth while doing these tutorial missions. The ones I have left are: Military and Advanced Military, Industry, and Business. I’ll probably do Industry or Business next, and save the Military ones for when I have enough time to do both.
The more I think about it, exploration is brilliant. I haven’t even used it outside the intro missions (yet) but the overall mechanism is simply brilliant.
Not everyone might find it fun, but I think it fits EVE perfectly: it boils down to puzzle solving to find the correct place to go. That puzzle blends real-world technologies (satellites, geolocation) with abstract math (intersection of spheres), jazzed up with EVE sci-fi tech (scan drones) and skills (astrometrics and astrometric pinpointing; basically raising the limit on the number of drones you can deploy and their scan error).
Think about a typical MMO that wants to make an exploration puzzle to find a dungeon. Eventually the solution will be posted online. However, for exploration in EVE, the locations (puzzle solutions) aren’t fixed, they move around periodically. You can’t just solve the puzzle for everyone forever, or even for yourself (bookmarked locations will eventually become worthless) – somebody who want to find an exploration site needs to do the steps. That’s just brilliant design and implementation.