Piracy guide

This page, Piracy Guide, was originally published in EON Magazine, and is copyright to MMM Publishing. It was written by Verone.

Contents

Piracy

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The darker side of life in New Eden revolves around Piracy. This guide should acquaint you with the world of criminal dealings in EVE, give you an insight into how the 'other' side of the community lives, and show you how to survive effectively on the spoils of your success. Who says crime doesn't pay?

Overshadowed only by large-scale corporate theft and scamming, piracy has proved to be the most controversial career that an EVEplayer can stumble into. It exists in many forms, from the lone Interceptor pilot attacking and killing (or ransoming) alliance cargo transporters in 0.0 space, to massive lockdowns of stargates - and sometimes whole solar systems - by the most powerful criminals.

In the last couple of years I have experienced everything that piracy has to offer, from the smaller, fast-moving operations, to the lockdowns of whole solar systems, producing the awe-inspiring spectacle of an ocean of frozen corpses. What you as the reader needs to understand is that every person who chooses a career as a Pirate in EVE finds their own niche, if they survive.

This guide is written from my own belt-pirating experiences. You may find that you can improve upon what is written to suit your play-style or your skill level. It is intended not as a rulebook, but more a set of guidelines that will hopefully help you get the most out of what is, in my opinion, the most rewarding career path on offer in the game.

The first thing to discuss is your own personal security status. This is displayed at the touch of a button, on the front page of your biography, to anyone who requests it and is, to most people who will see it, the primary way of deciding if you are operating within or outside of the law and whether or not you can be trusted. A negative rating usually invokes suspicion and wariness to those who see it and can be the warning on their overview that allows your intended target to flee before being snared in the grasp of a warp scrambler.


Small Crimes, Big Ambition

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You lose security status for any form of aggression towards another player that has a security rating above -5.0. Mathematics never was my strong point, but it's plain to see that without regular trips to a safe haven with a lot of pirate faction ships floating around to shoot at, you will find that it drops rapidly to the point where it impedes your travel through higher security solar systems and can eventually lead to you being locked out of systems that have a security level higher than 0.4. The basic system for status loss is:

  • 0.5% Standing loss will occur on initial aggression of your target.
  • 2.0% Standingloss will occur on the destruction of your target's ship.
  • 12.5% Standing loss will occur on the destruction of your target's capsule.

The percentages for loss are shown here but this percentage is applied to the difference between your current security status and -10. For example, if you have a security status of 1.0 and aggress a target, you will take a penalty of 0.5%, which removes 0.045 points of security status.

A sharp drop in your security status can leave you locked out from high-security space, unable to access any assets that you have stored in your hangars in those locations.As well as you not being permitted to travel through systems with this security rating or higher, the local navy patrols will ensure this by means of a healthy dose of good old ECM and firepower to cut your ship from under you. They will, however, be merciful and allow you to leave, embarrassed and in shame, in the safe comfort of your little brown blinking egg.


Out on the Edge

It is also worthwhile noting that once you have been naughty enough to warrant a security status of below -4.99, you will be considered an outlaw. Outlawship tends to be feared, as most see it to be one of the most restrictive ways to play. So let's point out the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an outlaw, and what the lifestyle involves.

Advantages: many people have contacted me in the past, asking about what it's like to become an outlaw in EVE. The majority of the people who ask this fail to see the advantages of being an outlaw, but those who know love the fun that flashing bright red on an opponent's overview brings them.

It does take a certain type of player to become an outlaw. Both running my own corporation and working as the PR Director for a second has meant that, time and time again, I've personally seen hundreds of people who have come in guns blazing and given up after a week of initial heavy losses because of what I like to call the 'Gung-Ho' attitude. Succeeding as an outlaw requires the same character traits as being a successful combat pilot - good awareness, the ability to make snap decisions and being able to gauge your opponent and the risk he presents to you.

Personally, I've found that accepting you're already dead before each engagement begins means that making it out alive is a bonus and does indeed make you happy with how you performed. Cynical, yes, but very effective.

The paramount advantage is the increase in the amount of unexpected combat that is actually forced on you. Forced is probably the wrong word, to be honest. More recently, I've resorted to flying without "warping to 0" when traveling because I've begun to see the 15km slow-boating trip to my next gate as an opportunity for someone to attack my ship and, in effect, bring the fight to me instead. And yes, it happens, a lot.

Outlawship opens up a whole new life in EVE because, in effect, being an 'outlaw' means exactly that. Everything you've learned to obey gets thrown out of the window. There are no rules or boundaries, only a short set of unwritten laws that a real pirate lives by.You will also find, in general, that the lower your security status falls (a perfect -10 being the ultimate golden target for some people), the more people will actually listen to what you have to say when their ship is in flames and you're breathing down their neck demanding a ransom price. After all, your security status is that low for a reason, right?

Disadvantages: in one sense, becoming an outlaw locks out a large percentage of the game environment for you to explore and means that you will have to travel much longer distances to circumnavigate high security areas to get from one place to another. This is one of the prime factors that people take into account when deciding whether or not becoming an outlaw is for them. If you enjoy high-security space and running in hub systems, then a life of crime will be something that is difficult to explore.

Another factor to take into consideration is your personal logistics, which can become a nightmare if you don't have a friend to assist with a little bit of 'legitimate' shopping in secure systems. Many new outlaws, or even those who have just lost enough security status to be locked out of the major trade hubs, find it difficult to survive simply because they are unable to acquire a new ship and fitting.

This can be remedied easily by making a few friends and gaining a little assistance in getting exactly what you require. Sometimes, a couple of smaller corporations who operate in your area can be granted a positive standing to supply you with discounted wares. Of course, this is different for everyone, given the situation that they are in and the area in which they operate.


Criminal Flagging

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This is something of a confusing subject for many new people; a lot of ships are lost to inexperience and ill-knowledge of how the flagging system works. Once you get your head around the initial concept, it's simple to employ with any given situation and should soon become second nature (hopefully).Correct utilization of the flagging system can be an anti-pirate's best friend, so it is good to have a knowledge of how it works from a pirate's side and yes, in this instance, the grass is indeed greener on the other side.

The first thing to understand is an essential piece of terminology that I always use to minimise confusion. When referring to 'low-security space', this means a solar system with a rating below 0.5 and above 0.0, which is often abbreviated when speaking as 'lowsec'. Don't worry about criminal flagging in any system with a security rating above 0.4, because there will be no combat and you're likely to be floating in a cloud of rolled tungsten plating and debris before you can say 'Suckered!' - all thanks to Concord's presence.

The flagging system in lowsec is very volatile. Use it to your advantage and it can save your life. Let others take advantage and you'll wake up in a vat of lukewarm green goo before you know what hit you.

For non-outlaws, when you start to pirate you'll find that the sentry guns around all protected structures in lowsec are on your side if you are aggressed and, similarly, will beat you to a flaming, semi-molten pulp if you decide to attack someone inside their range. Whenever you attack someone in a lowsec system you will become criminally flagged, as long as your target has a security status of -4.99 or higher.

This type of flag lasts 15 minutes and is classed as a 'Global Criminal Flag' which will be displayed in red at the top left of your HUD, along with a timer that shows the flag-time remaining. Handy eh? During this period, any aggression towards you is ignored and no penalties are awarded to those who shoot you. Similarly, the station and gate protection sentry guns will also rain down heavy fire on you should you stray into their range. It's not advisable to do so, believe me. I've lost count of how many times I've laughed myself silly as a gang mate has thrown himself into warp towards a gate realizing half way to his destination just how daft he really is. And yes, if you're wondering, it's happened to me in the past. A lot.

Once your 15-minute 'global flag' has elapsed you are safe from being beaten to a pulp. Or are you? Pay particular attention to your yellow flagging notification at the top of the screen before warping back to a Stargate or station. Criminal flagging can also occur against factions and the corporation owners of stations. There's nothing more embarrassing for a pirate than to receive a notification from CONCORD that your ship was destroyed by Astral Mining Incorporated.

For instance, if you shoot a pilot or asset which belongs to 'The Scope' and your global criminal flag wears off but you are still criminally flagged to the corp, then you'll find that if you warp to a station owned by 'The Scope', you'll be attacked by the sentries which protect the space around it.


Outlaw Flagging

If you are the aggressor in any given scenario, then the rules of the criminal flagging system remain the same for the outlaw as for the non-outlaw. It's when you're on the defensive that it can be a problem for an outlaw, especially when flying as part of a gang.

As an outlaw, a pilot receives no assistance from gate or station sentry guns. That's no assistance. People who aggress you in range of |sentry guns will not become criminally flagged! However you will also not become criminally flagged for defending yourself if you are shot at first. This is where it gets complicated and people begin to lose ships.

Any pilot who attempts to assist the non-outlaw pilot in this scenario can do so unhindered - be it remote repairing, or even attacking the outlaw alongside a friend. In contrast, a corpmate of the outlaw, regardless of his security status or even the fact that he may be in the same gang, cannot assist him. Anyone who assists an outlaw will become globally criminally flagged for 15 minutes and incur a security status penalty for 'Assisting a Criminal'.

This pretty much means that, as an outlaw, even if you have a gang of friends in tow, you are on your own if aggressed inside the range of sentries, unless of course the combined strength of the gang can effectively 'tank' the damage of the two sentry turrets shooting at them and still destroy the aggressors.

This point is one of the primary causes of ship loss to a starting pirate. With a little common sense it can be avoided and soon the complicated use of the flagging system can become second nature to any pirate who chooses to operate in lowsec space.


Starting Out

So, you've read and understood everything so far, you've gotten together your ship of choice, with all your fancy toys on board, and you've been practicing your 'YARRRR!' cries on everyone who passes through the solar system. My advice to you? Put away your expensive toys - you're going to lose them thanks to your inexperience. If you have implants, accept that they've already been destroyed and are frozen to your lifeless corpse somewhere in space. Bottom line - you will lose ships and you will get pod killed. It happens to the best of us. In New Eden, no one is safe and in any given situation there is always someone better than you, or just plain luckier.

The first thing that was drummed into my head as a new recruit in Sniggerdly was 'You are not your ship!'. This couldn't be truer. A ship loss is not the end of the world and believe me, it's going to happen a lot in the initial stages of learning to pirate. You simply need to accept the loss and move on.

There are several key points that you need to be aware of as a starting pirate:

  • Any pilot can be molded into a good Pirate with the correct drive, attitude, willpower and experience.
  • Skillpoints are not everything. I have personally flown with rookie pilots barely five days old, successfully surviving as pirates and ransoming players two years their senior for enough ISK to keep them in supply of Tech Level I frigates and modules until hell freezes over.
  • Experience is everything and building on this as you learn to tackle larger targets and make more money will encourage you to go further.
  • Take risks if you can afford it. So you might lose a ship? Big deal. Head into an outnumbered situation and get used to it. Once you hit the magical outlaw status, there will be a lot more of it and their guns will be a lot bigger...

Expendable Inventory

The most important rule when starting out is to manage your ISK flow well. If you're a multi gazillionaire then this doesn't matter, but the majority of us aren't so I will explain this. Don't run headlong into a battle aboard your best faction ship, with all the modules that you cherish and adore fitted. Sell them and keep yourself in supply of the things you're actually going to need in the future.

Never fly anything that you cannot afford to replace. I recommend sticking to Tech I frigates for a while, such as the Rifter, Punisher, Kestrel and Incursus, and then advancing to Cruisers once you have the confidence and ability to do so. Also, remember to insure everything you fly, to keep losses to a minimum and to ensure you operate a good profit margin.

Once you are confident that you can competently fly a frigate and effectively ransom or kill people, try moving up to a Cruiser. A close-range, blaster-fitted Thorax, a well-tanked Rupture, or a Maller usually works well. I've also seen some success from rookie pirates in Moa and Blackbirds too, relying slightly more on the ECM side to survive than on brute force and staying power.

Whichever path you choose, your ship needs to be fast and it needs to have enough midslots to run at least a MicroWarpdrive (or afterburner) and a Warp Scrambler - to 'tackle' as the phrase is more widely known.

A final piece of advice I would give anyone starting out; try to think small at first and never underestimate who you're fighting. Even if it's a solo miner in a Thorax out in the middle of nowhere, and you attack him in a frigate or weakly-tanked cruiser, there's nothing to say he doesn't have a huge pile of propulsion jamming ECM and some heavy drones waiting for you. Nasty.


Making Money

Next you need to decide which method of operating will earn you more revenue. Of course, you're welcome to just roam around blowing the living daylights out of everything you come across, but after a while this becomes tedious and the loot drops are pretty poor, unless you get very lucky. The easiest way that I've found to make ISK - and the reason that a lot of people appear to recognize me - is the basic principle of ransoming.

We've all lost a ship, or at least we should have, and yes, it's tedious staring at your HUD as your ship autopilots from system to system picking up modules and munitions to put a new one together. Most people are willing to pay more to preserve their ship and fittings than they are to see it go up in smoke and end up in an egg, looking at the market for new modules and ships with a disgruntled feeling in their stomach, or even worse, in a conversation with you demanding ISK for the safe release of their Capsule.

Contrary to popular belief, when done in the correct manner ransoming can be a very lucrative and effective way of making a living in EVE. I've lived on it for more than a year, so I can testify to that. As well as this, you have to consider that if you just run around blowing everyone up, a lot of people won't trust your word to let them go after a ransom and won't be so willing to pay up. You'll also find that if you don't resort to ransoming, the returns from actually killing someone are pretty low and you won't be able to survive on that very long.


Ransoming

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Yep, you heard me right. Ransoming is something of an art form when done effectively and has a long history in EVE, stemming back to the early days of corporations such as Space Invaders and m0o corp who were, in my opinion, the Monet and Van Gogh of the ransoming scene.

It's easy enough to sit at a stargate and destroy everything that comes through, but it becomes increasingly mind-numbing for anyone who is interested in more than just being ranked #1 on a table somewhere for having the highest number of kills. Ransoming and belt piracy are some of the harshest ways to test the mettle and survivability of an aspiring pirate.

Taking this principle and building on it ensures that you will remain successful at all times and reap the rewards of being what some people like to call an 'honest' pirate.

The only point I will stress, and practically reach out of these pages and force into your ears, is to never, under any circumstances, let your actions contradict your words. If you agree to a ransom price, then you agree to a ransom price. Your 'customer' should always be set free and in the event of his ship being accidentally destroyed, he should be given a full refund. You heard me.

Failure to acknowledge this single basic principle will lead you to run out of ISK very fast and end up with a large percentage of the pirate community in EVE actively hunting you if they spot you in their area of operation.


Controlling the Situation

So, you've acquired your target, he's sat in an asteroid belt and you have him Warp scrambled and possibly Webified. Excellent. You now need to take control of the situation quickly before he has the chance to slip out of his initial panic and react against you.

Open a conversation with him and continue to shoot at his ship, preferably until it catches fire at roughly 80 per cent structure loss. This will ensure that you are able to finish him off quickly if he tries any funny business.

Once the conversation is open, as you're shooting him, request that he recalls any drones he has on you (or you can kill them if you're not a nice person) and deactivates all the modules on his ship, including armour repairers, turrets, launchers and shield hardeners. Let him know that you will hold your fire and spare his ship and capsule if he complies with all your requests.

If he fails to do this, fire another volley at him and repeat the request. Repeated refusal to comply... well, I think we all know where this is leading next.


The Price is Right

To decide on a ransom for any given ship, I generally start the price off at 50 per cent of the platinum insurance price of the vessel and then, depending on character age and possible fitting, the price can decrease or increase as I see fit. The price also depends on the pilot's attitude towards me.

The trick here is to be realistic and think seriously about what you're asking for. A rookie pilot of a couple of months is not going to pay 10 million ISK to save his Moa. Try aiming for around 3-4 million. It's all about finding a happy medium.

Everyone's price is different. Factors I tend to take into consideration when deciding a ransom price are: the ship class, employment history, current employer and age of the pilot, as well as his overall attitude and general view of the current situation. The behavior of the customer during conversation can adversely effect the direction that the price moves. So remember, if you're caught, be nice. As I said earlier, everybody's price is different, as is every pirate's playing style, so this I leave to your discretion.

There are literally thousands of situations you can come across when pirating and this guide barely scratches the surface of the depth of this sinister side of EVE. You will learn a lot more through your own experience, your annoying losses and eventual triumphs.


In Summary

I'll leave you with something I tell every member of Veto. Keep your wits about you, take no crap from people who try to step on your toes and think about all the outcomes of a situation before heading in blind. Honor your word, be polite to your customers and use good judgment and common sense and you'll succeed at what thousands have failed to do.

Good luck, and keep your clone updated. You're gonna need it.


Security Lockout

It's a good idea to know where the cut-off points are for access to solar systems with any given security status. A character will have to possess a security status equal to or greater than the following levels:

-1.99 for access to 1.0 security level systems -2.49 for access to 0.9 security level systems -2.99 for access to 0.8 security level systems -3.49 for access to 0.7 security level systems -3.99 for access to 0.6 security level systems -4.99 for access to 0.5 security level systems

As you can see, it will only take a couple of pod kills to render your ships and equipment in 0.7 or higher security space useless and you will have to gain the assistance of a friend to move it to a lower security rated system for pick up.

Tip #1: It's a good idea to move all your ships and equipment to a quiet 0.4 security level system before you start to pirate, to avoid being unable to access them in the future


Expect the Unexpected

Every so often things will go pear shaped - a little more often if you're careless or unlucky. It's very wise to keep a cool head and think about your options before diving in. Assess the situation and see how bad it is before committing yourself to running in, guns blazing as you froth at the mouth and scream 'YARRR!'. Here are several common problems you might run into and how to avoid, escape or beat them. It is my fond hope that this will save your skin at some point, so READ IT!

  • Log Outs - Yes, it happens. If it does on your watch, kill him. It should never be tolerated. Of course, if he logs back in before you manage to roast him, then you can use this to your advantage when requesting a ransom price. Simply add as much as you feel to the price, within reason of course, and see if he will pay it.
  • Warp Core Stabilisers - The bane of any pirate's life. The simple solution to this is to fit more points of scramble. An extra scrambler should do the trick and should provide you with ample holding power. Of course, I need not mention that it's a very bad idea to follow your intended victim to a station or a stargate once you're criminally flagged, do I? Thought not.
  • Overview Lightup - You're sat happily ransoming someone and lots of red flashing squares appear on your overview. Ah, problem. It's time to leave, his friends have arrived. Think about this logically, if you feel confident fighting them then go right ahead, but use common sense and don't engage three Heavy Assault Cruisers in a standard Cruiser or you'll go home in an egg or reawaken in a cloning vat with a really bad headache and much less equipment.

Tip #2 : Beware. Some corporations, such as the Imperial Navy or Republic Fleet, own peacekeeping sentry guns at Stargates. Always check who you're flagged to and for how long before you make an attempt at warping to any large structure.


Dealing With Cheapskates

Sadly, it occasionally turns out that your 'customer' will not have enough ISK to pay the ransom price you demand. There are several easy solution to this:

  • Request that he ejects - you will take his ship as payment for his capsule's safe release. (This may sound dumb, but I've personally netted a Megathron, Scorpion and T2-fitted Moa with this particular method.)
  • Kill him - YARRR!!11BBQ11!1! Yep, you got it, destroy his ship and snare his Pod|pod if you can catch it in time. Maybe he'll pay up when you put the muzzle of a particle blaster against his face.
  • Ransack his cargo - ask him to jettison everything in his hold and you can inspect it at your leisure for anything you might want to take as payment for his safe passage. Again, this sounds time consuming, but its great fun and works pretty well from time to time.

Tip #3: Wannabe pirates often travel to where outlaw corps are operating hoping to join up. Don't. Make contact first. Some corps have training programmes, others are invite-only.


Tackling

Tackling is far and away the most fun and diverse ways of piloting for a new pirate. This is how I started my career in piracy. Basically, tackling consists of effectively stopping your intended target from running while not dying (too much) in the process. The basic tools for tackling are a Warp Scrambler or Disruptor, depending on your ship class and the range you need, and the option of a Stasis Webifier to slow down your target and make him easier to hit. Below is a rough list of skills you should train, and the minimum levels needed, before jumping into a ship to start to pirate:

  • High Speed Maneuvering II
  • Navigation IV
  • Afterburner IV
  • Electronics III
  • Propulsion Jamming II

As well as those skills, it's a good idea to train your chosen race's Frigate skill to at least level 4 to make good use of its natural ship-specific bonuses. This, gaining experience, further skill training and advice from good friends will keep you on the path to success.


Potentially Dangerous Situations

I have found that most people are happy to pay the ransom to survive intact. However, some people tend to hold grudges for a long time, or are just plain stubborn, so there are certain things you should watch out for which are pretty apparent when you start to pirate. These include...

  • Your customer stalling for time - also known as the old 'Hold on while I ask a friend for the ISK' trick. You will probably find that his friends are attempting to organise a rescue mission.
  • Numbers in Local swelling - it's probably a good idea to tell him to hurry up, also get ready to kill him and make a quick exit if his friends suddenly turn up en-masse.
  • Incorrect payments - you ask for 15m, he gives you 1.5m. An old trick and it can catch you out at a quick glance if you are unaware.

W00T I CAUGHT A Pod!1!

Congratulations, if you manage this in your early months in EVE it's a good start and you should be happy with your performance - they can be tricky little buggers to snare. The price you can ask for a pod varies wildly and can be a complete gamble. I often begin the negotiations with something along the lines of 'How much is your capsule worth to you?' I gauge his response and go from there with a request for a price.

The factors taken into account when ransoming a pod are basically the same as a ship. Use common sense to get the best deal and let your victim bargain with you. The key here is not to believe him when he says: "OMG you filthy scoundrel! I have no implants! I am all natural!" Hike the price up and see how he reacts, if he is a member of a large corp or alliance I guarantee that, in most cases, you'll make an extra buck or two, as he'll be scared to lose his precious, not to mention costly, augmentations.

Tip #4: Be careful when shooting a ship into structure damage. On smaller vessels, that one last volley can spell the difference between a flaming ship and a blue flash with a blinking egg sat in the middle