Tuesday, 31 July 2012

R&D Agents

Each state has a set of corps which have R&D agents.  These are special agents that are not really for missioning but are a left over from an old system of distributing Tech 2 blueprints.  Now days they are a source of Datacores, the essential components in invention.

Corps that have R&D agents are as follows;
  • Amarr - Carthum Conglomerate, and Viziam
  • Caldari - Ishukone Corporation, Kaalakiota Corporation, and Lai Dai Corporation.
  • Gallente  -  CreoDron, Duvolle Laboratories, and Roden Shipyards
  • Minmatar - Boundless Creation, and Core Complexion Inc.
An R&D agent has a list of sciences in their agent details.  The agent is capable of starting a research project in one of those sciences.  For example an agent may have Mechanical Engineering as one of their sciences.  That agent can then research Mechanical Engineering.  When an agent starts a research project they start accumulating Research Points daily.  You may then cash these research points in at a later date to get datacores matching the science you where researching.  That is, to get Nanite Engineering datacores you must do a Nanite Engineering research job.  Datacores now cost 100 RP and some 10,000 ISK each.  Research agents just keep accumulating RP points without your interaction but you can make them go a little faster.  They will offer you a mission once per day and if you complete that mission you get a day's worth of RP points.  These missions are either Courier (with a small package) or "Get me some tritanium" missions so they are dead easy.  You don't have to do them though for the agent to keep working.  That makes R&D agents the most passive ISK generation in the game.

The RP you get per day is dependent on several factors.  First is the level of the agent.  They come in levels 1 - 4.  The higher the level of the agent, the higher your standings must be with the agent's corp and faction.  You must also have the science you want to researched trained.  The higher your science level, the more RP you get.  Lastly, the agent is sensitive to standings and quality.  that means more standings = more RP.  Also getting the social skills that affect agent quality and reputation up will increase your RP rate a bit.  Now with pretty good skills and standings, and level 5 in the science, I'm getting 117 - 119 RP/day from level 4 agents.

To get more than one R&D agent you need to train Research Project Management.  You get another agent each level.  The last level takes forever though so even I don't have it yet.

R&D agents used to be the only steady source of datacores in the game.  However, recent changes now mean that people can exchange LP for datacores at Militia agents.  At the time of writing, the new system is so recent that the market is still fluctuating to reflect the change.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Jump Clones

Jump clones are one of the benefits of getting standings with a corp.  They are an extra body which you can occupy and move around as normal but can have a different set of implants and be kept in a different place.  In fact that is the main use for jump clones; preserving implant setups and getting around quickly.

To get a jump clone you need to either have;
  1. Standings of 8.0 with an NPC corp that has medical bays (not everyone does).
  2. Your corp has 8.0 standings an NPC corp that has medical bays.
  3. Docking rights and medical bay rights at a station in null sec.  These rights are assigned by an alliance.
You need to have at least one level trained in Infomorph Psychology to get a jump clone.  You can have one spare body per level.  Once made you can move the body anywhere you want by jumping into it and flying there as normal.  You may also have a different set of implants in each body.  This means you can have a body for skill training with +5 attribute implants, a body with a Snake implant set and a body with no implants for PvP as an example.  Having a spare body with no expensive implants for PvP is the most common use for a jump clone.

A pilot may jump between clone bodies once per 24 hours.  That total not once per body.  This is a great way to get across large distances quickly.  I have a character that is a market seller and she jumps between two different markets and sells in places 28 jumps apart without travelling.  People who live in null sec or wormholes often have a jump clone in empire so they can buy skills and equipment easily.

You can't keep all your clones in the one station.  It causes issues and you should get an error message if you try.  There doesn't need to be a medical bay on the station you have your jump clone though.  It can be anywhere.  You should also make sure your respawn point (or medical clone) is not on a station you have a jump clone as it causes issues.  I'm fairly sure you will get an error message if you try to do this.

Jump clones last until you destroy them.  That means you should make them when you are able in case you need them later.  They cost nothing to leave in a station and cost less than a million to make.  They are a worth while investment as you may find yourself in a war tomorrow and you don't want to risk your +5 implants on a station camp.

There are now new skills that affect jump clones.  Advanced Infomorph Psychology adds an extra jump clone per level to a total of 10 clones.  Infomorph Synchronizing reduces the cool down period for the next jump by one hour per level allowing you to jump every 19 hours at level 5.

Exploring Exploration

Whether its in high sec, low sec, null sec or a wormhole, exploration can be extremely profitable.  The problem is that it is also extremely fickle.  You are a slave to the randomness of the whole thing.  I've gone two weeks without a serious find and then had nearly a billion ISK drop in five hours high sec work.  Null sec can be billions from a single site if you are lucky and exploration is a way of life in a wormhole.  In this guide I'll concentrate on high sec exploration as most new explorers will start there.

You should have had an introduction to exploration during the tutorials. I still recommend that you have a look at YouTube for some of the latest scanning tutorials.  Much has changed since Odyssey was launched.  I haven't found a tutorial I liked but when I do I'll link it here.

Skills You Need
Fortunately for rookies, there are only a few skills you need to train for scanning.  However those skills make a world of difference.  Here is a list of useful skills;
  • Astrometrics - This skill reduces the time probes takes to scan, Increases the strength of probes and reduces the deviation of results.  It highly worth while training to 4 at least.  You also need it for the other skills.
  • Astrometric Acquisition - Reduces the time probes take to scan.  Not the most useful of skills.
  • Astrometric Pinpointing - Reduces the Deviation on scan results.  That means the indicated guess on the signal location will be closer to the real location.  Makes it harder to lose a signal.
  • Astrometric Rangefinding - Increases probe strength.  This is the most useful of the scanning skills but I get by in high sec with it trained to 4.
There are also a few skills needed for the complexes you will find.
  • Hacking - Needed to do Data Sites.  Level 4 is enough.  Lets you use a Data Analyser.
  • Archaeology - Needed to run an Relic Analyser unit.  Used in Relic Sites.

Navigating the Solar System Map
When you are scanning for exploration sites you will spend a lot of time in the Solar System Map.  Getting around can be tricky but there are some tricks that will help you speed up your scanning efforts;
  • Holding the primary mouse button (normally left) and moving the mouse will rotate the view around a central point.  This is usually a planet or something similar but you can select the pivot point by clicking on the item in the map.  I usually click on a probe or the signal I'm scanning so the view centres on that.
  • Holding the secondary mouse button (normally right) and moving the mouse will pan the view of the map.  
  • You can grab the edge of a probe bubble and drag it in or out to change the probe range of all probes.
  • If you hold the SHIFT key down you will get the option to move or change the range of a single probe at a time.
These Are the Signals You Were Looking For
Some pilots get a little confused about what you are looking for in exploration.  Your Scanning interface can find several things; Ships, Structures Cosmic Anomalies and Cosmic Signatures.  Anomalies are simple combat sites that can be found with the on-board scanner of any ship.  They will always show in your scan results at 100% if the tick box is selected next to the filter.  These aren't the real prizes in high sec but are a steady source of income in null sec. The do have a chance of spawning a faction enemy which may have some nice loot and there is a smaller chance of they will escalate into a private exploration site called an expedition.  More on those later.

Ships and structures are used for PvP operations mostly.  However some people do  scan out high sec mission sites to steal loot or gank mission runners.

The thing you are really after are the Cosmic Signatures.  These are more likely to have faction spawns and special loot in them.  They can also escalate into expeditions as well.  You should create a filter on your scanner interface that only shows Signatures.  This will save you hassle scrolling through a bunch of sites you don't want.

When scanning there are a set of different results you can get.  These tell you how close you are to finding a site.  Scan results can be;
  1. A red globe – means only one probe is in range of the site and the sites is somewhere in the globe.
  2. A red circle – means two probes are in range and the site is near the circle edge.
  3. Two red dots – means three probes are in range near one of the dots.
  4. a single red dot - means four or more probes are in range but the signal is not strong but is near the dot.
  5. A yellow inverted triangle – means 4+ probes are in range and the signal is strong. You should get a signal type about now.
  6. A green inverted triangle – means you have 100% fix on the location and can warp to it.

Exploration sites spawn randomly in systems during the game "day".  You can scan a system and then come back two hours later and find new signals.  I find that if you clear out sites in a system by making them despawn, there is a greater chance of there being new sites when you come back.  For this reason I occasionally do the less valuable sites just to clear them away so I can come back later

Working With Probes
There are two types of probes to work with in exploration.  Core Scanner Probes and Combat Scanner Probes.  They do the same thing with a few small differences.  Core scanner probes can only find Signatures.  The combat probes can also find ship, POS, and other structures.  However the difference you need to worry about is the scan ranges.  Combat probes can manage 64 AU - 0.5 AU but core probes can do 32 AU - 0.25 AU.  That means you need core probes to find the weakest signals.  The lack of upper range is rarely an issue.  At the time of writing, Sister's Core Scanner Probes are the absolute best you can get.

My usual procedure when scanning is to open the solar system map and flick through the filters to refresh the system pre-scan.  This should show all the Anomalies in system and any Cosmic Signatures in system.  When you go to the solar system map you should see a red globe for each Signature in system.  This is a rough approximation of where the signal is.  There is one more clue though.  Signatures are usually within 5 AU of a planet.  So look for where the red globes intersect with planets.  Those are your likely scan locations.   I then launch probes in the Pinpoint Formation (second last button on the scan panel).  This launches eight probes in a 4 AU pattern that is good for scanning.  The area in the middle where all the probes overlap is your scan area.  Move the probes so that scan area is centred on the planet you have chosen.  Don't forget to look at the scene from the side on view to get the z-axis right.

The new Interface for probes now automatically applies changes to all probes in the group.  When you move the probes, you move them all while still in their pattern.  You can also change the probe range and all of them will change.  Furthermore, when you change the probe range the probes will move in or out automatically to maintain the pattern.  This makes the whole thing much quicker to do.  If you need to move a single probe, hold shift and the individual probe Markers will come up.  At this stage I haven't found a good reason to do this.

When your probe cluster is centred on the location you want to scan, hit the scan button.  A little timer happens and then you get your results.  The probable results are as listed above.  If you have the single point markers then you can reduce the range on your probes and move the new scan area over the icon.  Scan again.  Keep going until you have the signal at 100% or you reach 0.25AU without getting it.  With low skills or poor equipment its quite possible to have signals you can't find.  However try moving probes closer or scanning again in case its just a unlucky scan.

If your signal disappears after a scan then you may have had a wild deviation in your last scan.  I typically leave the probes in place and bring the range out two ticks.  Then scan again.  I have found that if a signal is at the very edge of a scan area (that overlap in the middle) then you can get some wild deviations which will send you chasing shadows.  If you think this is happening then expand the probe range out so that it covers the whole area you have seen the signals in.  For me I normally go to 8 AU or sometimes 16AU to just get a confirmed signal to chase.  This is rare though.

Types of Exploration Site
There are five "groups" of Cosmic Signatures.  They are Combat, Wormhole, Relic Site, Data Site, and Gas Site.  Here is a brief description of each;

Wormholes can provide a great deal of ISK but they are extremely dangerous.  First off they are null sec so its anything goes in that space.  Second, local does not show anyone unless they talk.  That means you have no idea who else is in system with you.  Third, a lot of wormholes are owned by someone.  By this I mean that someone has set up a POS and is farming the system.  They get annoyed with people taking what they see as theirs.  There are no beacons to sites in wormhole space.  You will need to scan out all the sites you do with either probes or the on board scanner.  Lastly the rats are different.

Sleepers are the rats in wormholes and they have a different AI to normal rats.  They will choose the weakest target to attack, switch targets during a fight and attack drones and logistics ships.  They also do their damage to your weakest resistance value and they tank all damage types equally.  You can solo Class 1 and 2 sleepers but above that you need friends.  The most common approach is the spider tank.  Everyone in the fleet has the same tank, eg a buffer shield tank.  They also all fit a remote repairer.  When one person is attacked, all the others in the fleet put their remote repairer on the victim.  This means the victim gets the repair ability of 3+ repairers while not using cap.  This approach takes some teamwork so practice with friends in advance.

Next, there is no actual money in wormholes.  The cash doesn't magically appear in your wallet.  You will have to salvage every wreck and get the stuff to empire to get a payout.  That makes you vulnerable again.  The items dropped by sleepers have a set value in empire but certain salvage items are worth a lot of money and you are trying to get as many of them as possible.

Lastly, the wormhole you came in through is your lifeline.  Make sure you bookmark both sides before warping away.  Wormholes can disappear based on time or how many ships have been through them.  Wormhole corps often close wormholes deliberately.  You may find yourself in a wormhole with no way back to empire.  For this reason, you should always have a scanning ability in a wormhole whether its a probe launcher on your ship or and alt in a probe ship waiting under cloak.  There are only two ways to get out of a wormhole without a probe launcher; get someone to help you or self destruct your ship and pod.  Don't rely on the first one.

Its my opinion that wormholes are for small gangs of organised people not soloers.  Rookies should avoid them like the plague.  The risk is not worth the payout for a low skill character.  They are something for later in your career.

Gas Site
These are gas mining sites or sometimes sites relating to booster production.  To date I have never found one in high sec but the ones in wormholes can be worth a lot of money. Gas mining is a special skill and takes a bit of money to get into.

Relic Sites/Data Sites
Relic and Data sites never have rats.  They are usually some scenery and several objects you can access to get goods.  Relic sites provide tech 1 and tech 2 salvage and sometimes blueprints and skill books.  Data sites provide decryptors, datacores, parts for Interfaces as well as blueprints and skill books.  They also have a batch of basic loot which is NPC trade goods.  It is possible to scan these can with a cargo scanner.  The result will show you the unique items in the can.  The rest will be trade goods.  Decryptors and Datacores are good money.

To access a Relic node you need a Relic Analyser.  To access a Data node you need a data Analyser.  This takes you to a mini-game where you hack the can.  The interface is a collection of linked nodes.  You may reveal a node by clicking on it.  You can only click nodes adjacent to the ones you have revealed.  However there are obstacles.  These are Firewalls.  They have a Coherence and Strength score.  To defeat them you use a virus who's stats are dependant on your equipment and skills.  Your virus has a Coherence and Strength as well.  When you attack a firewall/virus you do your Strength in damage to the Firewall's Coherence.  If the Firewall is still there, it then does its Strength to your Coherence.  That ends the tick.  If you run out of Coherence you fail the hack attempt.  So far I've found you get two tried in high sec before the node self destructs (no area damage).  There are different kinds of Firewall so you need to read their details.  Also there are items which can help you.  Read the mouse over text when you see an icon.  be quick though, you have a time limit but I don't know how long it is.

The goal is to find the System Core and destroy it.  That will open the can.  The general strategy I've used is to go around the outside of the pattern revealing every node you can before attacking any firewalls.  You should find a few useful tools along the way.  Usually the core is on the outside but not always.  Once you reveal everything you can you can choose which firewalls to fight.

Once you open the can, things get frantic.  The Can sprays the loot out in all directions.  These show as little green/white/yellow circles with crosses on them.  Green means they are in range of your built in tractor beam and you can suck it aboard.  White means its out of range.  Yellow means you are busy.  Flashing ones are about to go pop.  A single ship cannot collect all the items by itself but fleet members can help.  The "spray cans" are named with a general type which gives you an idea of the contents.  You will need to learn these.  I only know that Parts cans hold the decryptors and datacores and Data cans have the blueprints.  When the mini tractor beam brings in an item it shows its icon for a minute above your cargo button on the HUD. 

Combat Sites
Combat sites are where the real money is for high sec explorers.  There are two kinds of combat sites;  DED deaspaces which have a difficulty rating out of 10 and ordinary combat sites.

DED ratings are 1/10 = frigates, 2/10 = destroyers, 3/10 = cruisers, 4/10 = battlecruisers and 5/10 and up are battleship zones.  The gates wont let bigger ships get into these complexes.  However, the gates work on hull size so a tech 2 frigate can get into a DED 1/10.  I use a HAC (Ishtar) to do exploration and that lets me into all but two sites I can find in high sec.  As a special rule, Strategic Cruisers cannot enter 3/10 or 4/10 sites.  You can find 4/10s in high sec but 5/10s are low sec only.  DED sites usually have bosses at each level or cans containing the loot.  Some require you to destroy a structure.  The loot is a overseer's effects and often some faction modules.  The bosses sometimes salvage into tech 2 loot too.  I've had one site drop over 300 MISK in loot in high sec so these can be rich finds.  The tougher sites need some serious tanks and DPS to complete.  They are probably out of reach for new pilots trying to solo them.  Call in your friends and work together on them.

The other combat sites usually have a faction spawn at the end.  That means one of the elite rats for the faction appears.  They have the chance of dropping faction modules or implants and they salvage into tech 2 salvage.  These sites also have the chance of "Escalating" into an "Expedition".  More on Expeditions below.  The faction rats can drop some serious money but the expeditions lead up to a faction loot drop.  Its hard to say which is more profitable.  These sites sometimes have ship size restrictions too so its worth using a cruiser size ship so you can get into most of them.  The Evelopedia has some great information on all these sites so look up the name of the site you found before doing it so you don't miss out on loot.

Combat sites have the potential for a lot of ISK worth of loot.  That means there are a lot of people looking for them.  I have found that at least half of the people I've bumped into doing a complex have competed with me for the site.  They race ahead trying to be the one to get the loot at the end.  I've even had people steal the loot out of my can at the end.  You need to decide how you will deal with these people.  Most will be set up in very powerful ships.  Often you wont have a warp disruptor to deal with thieves.  Personally I find people who contest a site that they didn't find first to be just short of pirates. Don't salvage these sites as you go.  Bookmark each room and race to the final loot drop.  Then when the site despawns you can warp to your bookmarks and salvage uninterrupted.

The combat sites you find in a region will be either against the local pirate faction or Rogue Drones.   While the rogue drone sites consistently drop overseer's effects they rarely drop faction loot.  The "boss" drone does salvage into tech 2 salvage but that's about it.  They aren't worth a great deal compared to the pirate sites.  However it is worth clearing them out so that new sites can spawn later.

An expedition is a set of linked complexes.  You will get a message pop up when you trigger an expedition giving you some story info.  The destination for the expedition will be in your Journal under Expeditions.   When you get to the system you must right click -> warp to the expedition site.  You can't warp a fleet there so you will need to tank the first bit yourself until your friends get there.

Each expedition site has a faction rat which can drop faction loot or implants or blueprints.  There is also a percentage chance that the next step in the expedition will be triggered.  The last step is often in low sec but has the chance of some good faction modules as loot.  Again these expeditions are detailed in the Evelopedia so research them in advance.  I have discovered that I can solo all high sec expeditions except the final step of one in my ishtar.

So far the final step of most Expeditions have been in low sec.  They don't always drop loot too so you must weigh the risks with the benefits.  Check the  Evelopedia to get an idea what you have to do. 

Cosmic Anomalies
I have recently gained an appreciation of Cosmic Anomalies.  For starters you don't have to scan them down.  I often put my ishtar in one and let the drones clear it while I scan the system.  However the main reasons for doing them is A) they can spawn a faction rat with nice loot and B) they sometimes escalate into a private DED zone.  The later one is rare so don't be too depressed if it doesn't happen to you.  However with exploration you want to maximise the number of faction rats you encounter and kill since each has the chance of good loot.  Thus I tend to clear Anomalies as I find them.  They can also be done in a good cruiser or assault frigate.  In null sec they are a major income source but high sec only gives you a small amount of bounty.  Its the loot you want.

So far all but one of the escalations I've got from Anomalies have been in low sec.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Running Missions for Fun and Profit

Missions come with several benefits to attract pilots to them.  There is the cash rewards and the private and personal rats that combat missions provide.  Missions also provide Loyalty Points (LP) which my be traded for faction ammo, modules, ships or implants.  Lastly, missions provide standings with both the corp you are working for and the faction the corp belongs to.  I have a section on standings later.

Missions come in three basic types; Distribution, Mining and Security.  The mission type determines the activity you must perform to complete the mission. Here is a quick summary of the types.

These missions are about moving something from one place to another.  Some can be done in a frigate while others will need a top tier hauler to achieve.  The biggest cargo I've seen was 40,000m3 but it was able to be split into smaller parts allowing for multiple trips.  There are no rats and these missions can almost be done AFK.  The only danger these missions have is that you are sometimes sent to low sec to collect or deliver something.  Check the Low Sec Missioning section for hints on this.

Mining missions are exactly what they seem.  The agent asks you to mine and bring to the station a set amount of an ore.  No need to refine it.  The ore is usually a made up variety and is worthless otherwise.  The site you are supposed to get the ore is a private deadspace zone.  There is usually just enough ore in the site to meet the mission requirements.  Make sure you get it all or you will fail the mission.  The deadspace belts can still spawn rats so take some protection with you.  From what I've heard the money to time ratio on these missions are pretty poor.

This is where the real money is.  These are combat missions.  You are sent to a deadspace site to kill every rat or to retrieve something.  There is usually a lot of bounty in the rats and mission rewards for a level 4 mission can be a couple of million.  Furthermore, the wrecks and loot can come to a tidy sum too if you salvage the site.  We'll look into Security missions further later in the post.

The Benefit of Standings

Corp standings are gained when you complete a mission.  You can lose standings if you fail missions.  Faction standings come from special missions like the Career Agent Missions or Storyline missions.  You get a storyline mission every 16 normal missions.  You will be notified of it via the notifications interface.  There are a number of skills which help with the gain of standings.  Most notably, is the Connections skill which will instantly put up your current standings with any corp you have positive standings with for each level trained.

There are a number of things tied to corp and faction standings.  The first is what level agents you may access.  As you go up in standings you can access the more valuable agents.  Here is a little table showing standings needed for each agent.

Agent Level      Standings
         1                 Anyone
         2                     1.0
         3                     3.0
         4                     5.0
         5                     7.0

Please note that if you train Connections to level 3 or 4 and do a couple of level 1 missions for a corp you should be able to jump straight to level 2 missions.  This is a great way to get ahead.

Having standings with a corp also affects thing like your tax on refining ore and placing sales and purchase orders.  You can see these values in the Market and Refining screens.  Lastly you need a standing of 8.0 to install a jump clone.  Jump clones are fairly useful especially if you plan to PvP occasionally as you can preserve your implants in one clone and use another.  If you are trying to get jump clones make sure that the corp you are working for has medical bays on at least some of their stations.

Faction standings can be substituted for corp standings for the purposes of accessing mission agents.  That means with a faction standing of 7.0 you will be able to use any agent that faction has.  That's pretty useful if you move about changing corps or such.  There are also some COSMOS agents that give you faction ships if you have high enough faction standings.

If your corp plans to install a POS in empire high sec space the corp must have a faction standing equal to 10 x sec rating of the system.  That means a faction standing of 5.0 to install a POS in a 0.5 system.  Corp standings are calculated from the average unmodified standings of all contributing corp members.  Contributing members are members that have some standings (+ve or -ve).  That makes it pretty hard for a corp to get a POS without some serious effort.

If you want to join the militia you will need some faction standings.  The Militia Window will tell you how much.  Last time I checked it was 0.5 but they may have changed that.  There was also a deal that you could join the militia any time in the 30 days after you complete the Advanced Combat Career Missions.

You are allowed to refuse one mission per agent every four hours without penalty.  After that you will lose standings if you turn down a mission.  Its a hefty chunk too so think twice about it.

If you do combat missions you will find some missions are against another state. That is, the enemy in the mission is from Gallente or Amarr etc.  Doing these missions will cause you to lose Faction standings with the state you are shooting.  Kill a Caldari ship and your Caldari State standings will go down.  When your effective faction standing reaches -5.0 the navy in that state will attack you on sight.  This gets really annoying especially if you change corps or travel a lot.  When I realised this was happening I stopped doing missions against the states by turning them down.  This sometimes meant I had to go find another agent for a few hours but I can still travel anywhere in Eve.  You should make a decision early in your career whether to accept the faction standings loses or avoid them. 

You can share the corp standings you get from a mission with other fleet members.  In fact you can share the payout too.  The benefit of this is you can help a friend gain standings with a corp by running your own missions and sharing the rewards.  This works well if you are running level 4s.  You cannot share faction standings from missions in any way.

Mission Levels

Mission levels are a guide to how difficult they are and how rewarding they are.  Level 1 missions pay fairly badly whereas level 4 missions can be worth up to 20 MISK each (bounties and loot included).  Level one combat missions are meant for a frigate or destroyer to complete.  Level 2 combat missions are for a cruiser.  Level 3 equal battlecruiser and level 4 are for battleships or advanced ships like strategic cruisers.  Level 5 missions are always in low sec and usually need a team to complete.  There is some debate as to whether level 5s are worth the effort.  The typical goal is to reach level 4 missions and start earning serious ISK.

The Level system for Distribution and Mining missions is a guide to how difficult it is to complete the missions.  Expect Level 4 mining missions to want a high level barge to mine.  Level 4 courier missions will either go to low sec a lot or need a big hauler.

Doing Security Missions

Most people will want to do security missions.  They are the best money and are the least boring.  That's not to say they don't get repetitive.  There is a limited number of different missions and you will get the same set fairly regularly.  This has an advantage, you can plan ahead.  There are many web sites available to detail the missions you will encounter and its always a good idea to research a mission before undocking.  Here is a site I recommend http://eve-survival.org/wikka.php?wakka=MissionReports .  Check out the number and type of rats you are facing in each mission.  Find out what damage type the enemy is weak to.  Find out what damage type you will be exposed to.  Most importantly, find out if any rats will warp scramble you.  Fortunately, scrambling rats don't show up until level 4 missions so new pilots can relax a little.  However it does illustrate one of my primary rules of PvE.  Kill the frigates first and fast.  This is because it will be the frigates that web or scram you and that is what will get you killed.

Another tip for running missions is to align to a celestial object like a gate, station or the sun.  If you are facing that object and moving at your best speed you can warp to that object almost instantly.  That saves you time when things are going pear shaped.  Having to align and get to warp speed is often too much time.  Decide in advance when you are going to bug out.  That time will depend on your tank.  Its too late to say "maybe I better leave" when you go into structure.  Armour tanks should be one their way out at 20-25% armour.   Shield tanks should be leaving at about 25% shields.  You can always come back when you recharge.

Make sure you note in the mission briefing if you are supposed to bring something back.  The items usually drops in a can or wreck from the last rat but check the mission info in the website first.  Nothing is more annoying than having to go back to the mission site a second time.

The briefing for a mission appears in your journal.  If you open the briefing and then minimise it, the briefing will pop up when you complete the mission.  This is useful sometimes when you just have to kill a certain rat.

There is often some money left lying in space after a mission.  I'm talking about the wrecks from the ships you killed.  They often contain something or can be salvaged into salvage materials.  A destroyer with tractor beams and salvagers is great for this but nothing beats the Noctis for this job.  If you salvage your missions then training for the noctis is a must.  Its tractor beams can go out past 80km.

A pro tip for Salvaging a site.  You can make a bookmark in each room of the mission then turn in the mission.  You can then come back to each bookmark by warping straight to them.  The wrecks will still be there but the mission site will be gone.  No need to travel between gates.  You can also avoid losing the time bonus this way.

The security rating of the system your agent is in affects the value of the rats and the mission rewards.  That means its better to mission in 0.5 than in 0.7.  Finding a nice out of the way spot for missions is a good move.  I'm not telling you where I go.

The rats from opposing states don't have bounties.  Instead they drop dogtags.  These tags can be turned in at Navy stations for ISK or can be used to buy items from the loyalty point store.

People Being Rats

Mission runners usually just want to do their stuff.  However your mission zone is not completely private.  A ship with combat scanner probes can find your zone.  This happens a lot in major mission hubs like Dodixie.  The prober comes into the site and starts taking loot and salvage.  Of course he is flagged as a thief for taking stuff (salvaging is not theft) however attacking them is usually the wrong move.  The Thief is most likely baiting you into a fight.  He'd let you kill his little ship and then come back with a fully kitted combat ship.  They often have friends too.  You should also know that most PvE fitted ships fair very poorly in PvP.  Wrong design philosophy.  The best option is to salvage everything before he gets it.  Personally I'd recommend finding somewhere quieter to run missions.

Missions in Low Sec

I don't think you will ever get a mining mission that sends you to low sec.  If you do, refuse it.  The risk is not worth it.  For distribution missions its often ok to run low sec.  Check the blog on Surviving Low Sec and Eve Survival Skills.    Safespots and Escapes are most useful to you. Use a cheap ship if you can.  If you have spare low slots on your hauler then fit some warp core stabilisers to make scramming you hard.

Pilots doing Security missions are very vulnerable in low sec.  Many pirates will be carrying combat probes and will look for you if they see lots of wrecks on the directional scan.  They will often wait for you to be engaged with a whole room of rats before jumping on you.  For this reason its usually better to get an agent that is a long way from low sec.  Agents next to low sec systems will send you there often regardless of their level.

Don't fit a cloak and think you are protected.  Cloaks don't work if you are targeted by anything.  That means rats too. Cloaks are useful for warping to a safearea and hiding until the pirate goes away.  Other than that they have limited use.

Consider getting a friend to watch the gate to the mission zone for you.  They can site cloaked or be 100km+ from it and just watch.  If something turns up you get more time to warp out.  Make sure you have aligned to a gate or planet and kill scramming frigates so you can warp out immediately.  Never warp to a moon in low sec.  POS are allowed to kill on sight in low sec so you should avoid them (POS are always at moons in case you didn't make the connection).

Warp Core Stabilisers sound like a good idea for low sec but they give you a -50% penalty on both lock on time and lock on range.  That will make the mission harder.  If you are jumped by a gang the stabs wont help anyway.

Loyalty Point Stores

You gain loyalty points for completing missions (also for other things in the militia).  These can be traded on the Loyalty Point Store on the corp stations.  The list of loyalty points that you have can be found in your journal.  LP can be used to buy faction ammo, faction modules, faction ships and implants.  Some items will require other bits besides the LP.  Essentially LP are another income source.  You will need to do some calculations and research to work out what is the best Isk/LP rate.  Many pilots just use LP to keep themselves stocked with faction ammo.  However you can make some good money from LP.

LP stores are now the main source of tech one implants like the attribute enhancing implants.  Some missions drop implants though so check the market before you buy from a LP store.  Some implants are cheaper on the market.

The Militia uses loyalty points in a more expansive manner.  I'm investigating this and it will probably end up in another blog entry.