In the beginning...
Allow me to set the scene. You've installed EVE Online; you're on a 14 Day Trial or perhaps you actually own the game and decided to start afresh. Maybe you have dabbled in other aspects of EVE, but you haven't touched any of that "mission stuff". Well, then this article was written for you. It is by no means a definitive guide, but will hopefully provide you some insight into how mission running can benefit your character and your corporation and how to find an agent to get started.
I was like you once... Fresh, brand new and in some ways, overwhelmed by the enormity of the EVE Universe. How do you start off? What do you do? The in-game tutorial guides you through the basic principles of EVE and gifts you rudimentary control over the game interface but it doesn't tell you what to do afterwards. You may be left with a distinct sense that you lack an overbearing aim or a goal. There is no clear cut path, no levels to grind through. You are literally booted into the deep without apology or comment. Welcome to EVE Online.
The point of this callous 'dumping' is to give you the freedom to choose what to do. EVE is a game which requires you, the player, to have a goal and to set yourself tasks and objectives. So, this article is obviously assuming that you've grabbed a cup of coffee, tea, or in fact any other beverage, sat down and had a long hard think about where you want to head with your character and that you have thought about running missions as a means to grow your own ISK crop. So, the question is - why mission running? Why not mining? Why not manufacturing? What kind of missions? These are important questions, affected by multiple variables.
Firstly, character creation is an important process in the short term for an EVE Player. Aesthetics aside, the character creation process defines your starting skill set and starting attributes; so of course if you have started out as a research character and now suddenly want to jump into combat, you would subsequently have to learn the combat skills in order to do this. The lesson here is that it pays to have an idea of what you want to do from the get go in order to give yourself a head start in that direction. There are of course many varieties of missions such as research and development missions; courier missions; mining missions and of course kill missions, so it's not necessary to choose combat in order to excel in missions. However, for careers like mining the likelihood is that you will want to actually go out and mine ore and then refine or sell that ore rather than do missions involving small scale mining. Combat tends to be the most common mission type and is a primary focus for many combat players who do not have a foothold in mining or manufacturing.
Secondly, some players simply don't like the industrial side of EVE. There are definitely some people out there who are content to let others craft tools of destruction whilst they simply use them in order to get their hands very...very dirty. To put it simply - there are a lot of players, perhaps even like yourself who simply want to "blow stuff up". For these people, mission running is a welcome opportunity to unleash death upon their enemies and earn some ISK in the process.
Missions in EVE Online provide several benefits to a player. Primarily, they reward your actions with ISK - garnered from bounty from NPC pirate kills and as a direct reward from handing the mission in. They also boost your standings with the particular corporation you have been working for. Whilst the benefits of ISK rewards are obvious, standings are less so and if you are anything like me, they may leave you confused as to their actual purpose.
At the simplest level, your standing with a corporation affects which agents you have access to. Missions range from Level 1 to Level 5, the higher your effective standing with a corporation, the higher the level of mission agents you can access. However standing affects a multitude of different things in EVE Online, such as access to Jump Clones - an advanced cloning technique used to cut out long distance travel; the ability to anchor player owned structures (also known as PoS's) inside high security space and, for those industrial minded players out there: standing affects the amount of minerals you lose in the refining process. Your standing also contributes to your own corporations overall standing, so you are not only helping yourself but also your entire corporation. So, missions are a key part of increasing your standing with your faction, and the corporations within that faction. An interesting note to make in this area is that if you have a high faction standing, for example a high standing with the Caldari State, then that automatically opens up higher level agents in every corporation within that faction. This enables you to start working for a corporation you might have never completed a mission for at a higher level. The lesson to be learnt here is that Faction standing is very useful!
The Know How...
Now that you have been freshly equipped with knowledge of the benefit of mission running - you're hopefully still interested and would like to know how to begin. This is quite a simple process. First you must identify a corporation you wish to work for and a "division" of that corporation. So the logical step here is - what sort of missions do you wish to do? Maybe you're aiming for combat missions in order to rid New Eden of hideous and swarthy, rum loving pirates...or something to that effect. Perhaps you are a traveller at heart and seek to run a series of courier missions rather than have your ship put at risk. Alternatively you could be a budding scientist and be seeking R&D agents and their associated missions. Whatever your choice, there is something for you. In all likelihood you will be working for corporations that fall under the umbrella of your chosen race, for example the Caldari State. If not, this doesn't matter. To find out all the corporations within your faction use the "People and Places" search function (set to Faction) and type in your faction's name (Caldari State, Minmatar Republic, Amarr Empire, Gallente Federation) and "Show Info" on that faction. You will find all the corporations within that faction under the "Member Corps" tab.
Obviously there are a lot of corporations here and you are expected to choose only a handful of them. It pays to do your research and good advice would be to seek the highest available quality agent that is relatively close to your start point. Feel free to do some heavy travelling if you decide you dislike the area you are currently in but to save you that time, look around and find an agent that suits you nearby. For example within the Caldari State, corporations like Home Guard and the Caldari Navy have a plethora of agents within reach of the starting stations.
Examine a corporation, and use the "Agents" tab to provide you with a list of agents both available and not available to you amongst the different "divisions" in that corp. These "divisions" are important as they determine the type of mission you will receive. The clue is usually in the name: Surveillance, Security, Command and Internal Security are almost exclusively killing missions, whilst R&D and Mining speak for themselves. Others provide more of a mix such as Personnel or Accounting. Identify what you want and head for the location of the agent, once there begin a conversation and you will be on the right track for your first successful mission in EVE Online!
There are several important things to note from here on out:
Firstly, the 'Journal' is a key part of mission running. In here are placed all mission offers whether you have accepted them or have yet to accept them. If you need to check details of your mission, you can find it in the 'Journal'. A word of advice is, when speaking to an agent, before accepting the mission always ask for more details and check the location of the mission to ensure you aren't straying anywhere you don't want to go. Very irritating to accept a mission only to discover it's inside a 0.2 security sector! Secondly, if you complete 16 missions in a row for the same corporation, you receive a special mission known as a 'Storyline' mission. You will receive an email from an agent requesting to speak with you. These missions provide a boost to your Faction standing, unlike normal missions which simply boost your standing with a specific corporation within that faction - this makes them very useful. They vary in difficulty, from simple hand-ins to more complicated kill missions with several parts. My advice is to complete these missions wherever possible, if not only for the standing but for the fact that you often receive decent implants or other modules/ships as a reward.
The final tip is something not often mentioned. Players are made aware during the tutorial that ignoring a mission or failing one will cause you to lose standing with that agent and his/her corporation. This often leaves players scared of saying "No" to an agent and refusing a mission, even if it is something which is beyond the player's capabilities. The good news here is, you are entitled to refuse one mission every four hours with no penalty to your standing. Keep this in mind.
Mission running in EVE Online is a rewarding, if sometimes gruelling process. The steady progress from lowly Level 1 missions to high powered Level 4 marathons is impressive and personally gave me a nice perspective on how far I had come since starting the game. Of course it's not all personal satisfaction, the ISK rewards increase exponentially and when coupled with salvaging and general looting it becomes a very nice earner for both casual and hardcore players.