Over the last few months, I have had a few new players ask me for some suggestions on what to train their characters for. For a new player, there are so many paths to choose, and many players are quite concerned about making the right choice. This is probably a legacy of other MMOs (and games like Diablo 2) with more restrictive (and sometimes unreversable) choices when advancing.
So, the first piece of advice I can give is : It’s not the end of the world if you make a ‘bad’ skill choice. You can recover. In fact, you may find your bad skill choice comes in useful at a later date.
Having said that, it’s easier to have a plan from the beginning. So, a few decisions need to be made first.
Multiple characters or all-in-one?
New players often put all their skill training in the same character. This is of course quite convenient at times, since your combat character is also your salvaging character, your scanning character, your hauler, trader and miner. You also don’t have to juggle the training plans or assets of two separate characters.
However, the disadvantages, while not immediately apparent, do come into play soon enough. Your corporation is at war and suddenly you lose access to the safety of high-sec space for mining or purchasing replacement ships. You become torn between multi-day stays in hostile space and the day-to-day tending of planetary installations and industry jobs back home. Indeed, you will probably find that a neural remap for combat skills blows out the training time for your industry skill plan.
The solution is to specialise with multiple characters – one dedicated to combat skills [and associated stuff like mission-running and incursions], and one dedicated to non-combat skills*. This enables more efficient neural remaps, and allows you to keep a character ‘at home’ tending the farm and selling stuff while the other character gets into fights.
* Exploration skills are a bit awkward, in that they’re easier for Int/Mem characters to train, but are really convenient to have on your main. This is probably why scan characters end up in a separate account, so you can use both at the same time.
nullsec or lowsec
Null-sec combat is different to low-sec and high-sec combat. The lack of gate guns means that smaller ships are more useful, and certain ship classes become very different in role due to unrestricted access to weapons that are forbidden in Empire space.
This guide will concentrate on a null-sec progression and leave low-sec for another post, but the short answer for new players looking for fights in low-sec is: train the Battlecruisers skill (ideally to V) then get in one.
First off, train Cybernetics and get some +3 implants (or better). Prioritise the Int and Per implants above everything else. You’re unlikely to get podded for a while, and the benefits are worth it.
At the start of your career, you’ll be lacking in two main skill trees: the Int/Mem support skills, and the Per/Wis combat skills. While it’s tempting to dive right into the combat skills, realise that it will be a long time before you’re outputting the same damage of more experienced players.
In addition, the support skills that you’re missing mean that you will move slower and be more fragile than them, so you have a double whammy.
The solution? Don’t play by the same rules they do.
Some modules are just as effective, no matter how many skill points you have trained. By concentrating on combat roles that use these modules, you can get some good pvp action even while training up the support skills to keep you alive. Then, once your support skills are ‘good enough’, you can use a neural remap and get into main line battleships or dreadnaughts or whatever you want.
Neural remaps save a lot of time on skills that you’re specialised for, and add time to skills you’ve specced away from. There’s about 40% difference in training speed between a specialised skill and an off-attribute skill, so that’s a pretty big jump.
When I made my character, I trained Int/Mem support skills for close to six months before losing my patience and remapping into Per/Will. If you are ok with that, then by all means do so. Just realise that you won’t be having a lot of fun for a while, and will have used up both your remaps – you’ll be training combat skills for the next 12 months whether you like it or not.
Perhaps a better choice for a new player would be a single remap to maximum Int and the rest in Perception. That way, you have a major specialisation in support skills, but combat skills won’t be completely terrible for you. Navigation skills, in particular, will be exceptionally fast, which dovetails neatly into the Minmatar combat philosophy. Plus, you get to keep a remap for later.
Milestone 1: Rifter
The majority of PvP characters can fly Minmatar ships. Most can fly other races, but generally you’ll find that the Matari ships are a good combination of tactical flexibility and solid performance. They can be flown aggressively or tentatively; they can be fit to suit armour or shield fleets; they even have a good mix of gun and missile capability.
However, as a starting character, you’ll need to pare down your options a bit. For this, I suggest sticking to:
- Guns instead of missiles (missiles are fairly easy to train up, but they can wait)
- Shield instead of armour tanking (both will be useful for a Matari pilot, but most of the below ships are shield tanked. Also, Tech 2 Matari ships have excellent shield resistances)
A great starting point for PvP combat is the Rifter. There’s an excellent Rifter PvP guide available at Wensley’s site, so I suggest you read it. Choose any of the shield-tanked fits and take them out on a roam with corp mates. You’ll likely lose the first half-dozen fairly fast, so it helps to have replacements already pre-built in your home station. At this stage, don’t fret if you only have tech 1 guns – they entire point of this skill plan is to have a ship that is useful in any fleet, even if you aren’t doing as much damage.
When this milestone is reached, you should have (amongst other skills):
- Afterburner III
- Minmatar Frigate V (long train, but unlocks all Tech 2 Minmatar frigates)
- Evasive Maneuvering IV+
- High Speed Maneuvering I+
- Hull Upgrades III+
- Propulsion Jamming II+
- Shield Upgrades I+
- Electronics III+
- Engineering III+
- Mechanic III+
Milestone 2: Stiletto
The role of the interceptor is to stop ships from escaping. They’re relatively cheap ships to lose, but essential in a fleet. Train for a Stiletto and get a warp disruptor ‘point’ on people and watch them die at the hands of your fleet mates. Gun skills aren’t essential for Stilettos but you’ll likely have some (tech 1) gunnery skills from your Rifter days.
When this milestone is reached, you should have:
- Afterburner IV
- Evasive Maneuvering V
- High Speed Maneuvering IV+
- Interceptors IV
- Shield Upgrades IV+
- Propulsion Jamming IV+
- Electronics IV+
- Engineering IV+
- Mechanic IV+
Milestone 3: Sabre
Continuing on the theme of ‘small ships that are crucial in fleets’ is the Interdictor. A role that is only available outside of Empire space, the ‘dictor drops warp disruption bubbles that prevent escape nearby. This is practically the only way to kill pods and cloaked ships, but also has defensive uses, stopping enemy ships from warping right into the heart of your fleet. To this end, train for a cloaky sabre. For the time being, the tech 2 guns are optional but it’s a really good idea to train to fit the cloaking device. Note that Sabres often have a ‘kill me’ flag on them, so you might be able to convince you fleetmates to pay for a replacement ship if you pop.
By the end of this milestone you should have trained:
- Cloaking I
- Destroyers V
- Engineering V
- Graviton Phsyics I
- Hull Upgrades IV+
- Interdictors IV
- Propulsion Jamming V
- Science V
Milestone 4: Hurricane (optional)
By now, you’re probably antsy to have something tougher in your repertoire. The Hurricane battlecruiser is a great choice for larger engagements, as well as being useful to gain income via ratting. This shield tank fit is pretty decent, although many people prefer medium neuts or heavy launchers in the highs. BTW, read that entire article – it hammers home the fact that you do need quite good gunnery skills to fly a ‘cane effectively, so if you decide to remap to Perception/Willpower, make sure your support skills are up to scratch first. It might be an idea to look ahead and see if there’s some other ship classes that have support skills as prerequisites so you can train them up before switching.
This milestone is optional, but a recommended set of skills would be
- Minmatar Cruiser III+
- Battlecruiser IV+
- Medium Autocannon Specialization III+
- All Navigation skills at IV+
- T2 light and medium drones
- Energy Emission Systems IV
- Projectile Rigging IV
- Shield Rigging IV
- Advanced Weapon Upgrades III+
Milestone 5: Broadsword
By this point, you probably don’t need this guide any more. However, in fleet battles, everyone loves a Hictor, and you’re very close to being able to fly one. Hictors are a very good way to tackle enemy capital and supercapital ships, and by this stage in your career, you’ve probably seen a bunch of fleets that are advertised as
Logistics > HICs > DICs > Scorpions > Battleships > rest
so it’s nice to be able to fill a needed fleet role in a tougher ship than the Sabre.
All you need to fly a Broadsword like this is:
- Minmatar Cruiser V
- Propulsion Jamming V
- Heavy Interdictors III+
- Graviton Physics IV
But, that’s a terrible progression. You obviously know nothing
There are many paths that suit different people. For instance, you could go light on the support skills and heavy on the gunnery/piloting skills. Your progress might look like so:
- Jaguar (like a Stiletto, but using Assault Ships skill)
- Rupture / Stabber
- Muninn / Vagabond
or maybe you like the idea of covert ops, and progress like
- Rapier / Huginn
- Cloaky Loki
and that’s ignoring the Logistics tree, and the fallback option of “battleships and large guns”.
However, hopefully you’ve gained an idea of how a bit of forethought will help you in your skill planning and have a skill plan you can use as a base to customise to your own needs and wants.