Let me be clear: in regards to the maximum ISK/hour, PvE is not the way to go. No amount of PvE playing, skills, or blinged up ships will come close to some of the other ways that one can make money in this game. However, PvE is largely the most accessible way to make ISK, and one can make very respectable amounts of money (around 100 million per hour is doable). This article will focus on solo PvE: once again, doing 10/10s with some friends or popping wormhole sleepers will net more money, but these areas are largely inaccessible to players that have just started the game. Want to learn how to run sanctums or level four missions like a badass? This is the guide for you.
This is a follow-up piece of the first newbie fitting article. While this article primarily uses battleship examples, the points illustrated could just as well apply to level 1 to 3 PvP fits in frigates to battlecruisers.
BUILDING ON THE BASICS
When it is broken down, the idea of PvE is to make the maximum amount of ISK in the least amount of time. Thus, the goal of any kind of PvE is to complete as many missions/complexes per hour as possible. This first bit doesn't even involve ship fitting: find out what missions/complexes give the highest reward for the least amount of time. One way to do this kind of research is to use the very, very useful EVE Survival site. For those involved in PvE, until the mission/site is known by heart, new players should have this open during their whole mission. Aside from giving information on mission rewards, it lets players know what to expect (and thus avoid getting their ship blown up).
After a mission has been deemed suitable for the player's level/ship skills, it's time to determine a fit. One of the key areas that many new players fail at is the over-reliance on active tank modules. As noted above, the way to make ISK it to clear missions/sites as fast as possible. No amount of repairing will help that objective, will it? Consequently, the right frame of mind when starting any ship fitting for PvE is to create a ship that has JUST enough repair ability to survive the mission while having as much DPS (damage per second) available as possible. Same with capacitor use: many players get fearful and deem that they need capacitor stability at all costs. In reality players only need enough to finish the mission without dying: as a general rule, four minutes of cap is generally more than enough. Ideally, one should be able to run all the ship's guns and be stable, or run all the repair modules and be stable. Keep in mind: the more damage output, the least repairing the ship will need to do (because rats that do damage are killed faster).
THE TANKING BIT
Okay, okay, I understand. All those red crosses, especially the really thick ones: how does one survive them during missions? Revert to EVE Survival, and go to the chosen mission. The damage types a player's ship will take will depend on the kind of rats, information that will be supplied by this very helpful site. Say the mission in question involves Blood Raiders: this means that the NPCs will inflict EM/thermal damage, roughly at a 50/50 ratio. No need to worry about kinetic and explosive resistances then: players should only add corresponding hardeners relative to the damage types received. As noted previously, one needs roughly 4 minutes of cap to survive. If a player wants to über tank, they tend to initially put two repair modules. Do not do this: EFT will easily demonstrate that putting two repair modules on most every ship (remember I'm talking PvE here) will destroy cap, or at the very least mean a player loses out on damage to compensate for this. Repair modules are some of the most cap-intensive in the game, so a player should focus on having one of the highest meta they can fit, but no more than one. Using hardeners to increase the effectiveness of said modules is a much more efficient way to do it.
The increased penalty for mounting more than one module of the same type was discussed in the first series. The penalty applies to hardeners and tanking modules. If we consider the Blood Raiders again, most players would be tempted to put two hardeners of each type plus their repair module. Unfortunately, the second pair of hardeners severely penalizes their effectiveness. Players should aim to have only one of each if possible (remember, this would depend on the mission. I am only stating how the module slots might be better used for other modules such as damage or propulsion). Always remember: every tanking module that a player places is a slot that could be used to increase the profit. After trying a mission, each player should reflect (and even test) whether they can survive said mission with one less hardener. Little differences can add up to a lot more ISK over time.
You guys should be able to list a number of issues with this fit, but among other things it illustrates what too much tank is. That's right, 2500DPS against Angel rats...
I CAN JUST GET THROUGH IT WITHOUT DYING, NOW WHAT?
I'll repeat myself: ISK/hour is all a player should be focused on. Many missions, for example, require a fair bit of travelling from gate to gate. For those that repeat those missions, an afterburner is a worthy addition that can drastically increase profitability (remember, players don't need to run the AB during missions, just to reduce travel time once all the NPCs are dead). In the same way, some sanctums do not require much moving, but can demand ranges that are outside weapon optimals. In that case, players should try and fit tracking enhancers or a tracking computer. Real-world DPS in that case might be superior to having a DPS monster that can only hit out to 5km. Players also often forget drones: in some ships (such as the Dominix) they can represent close to 50% of the damage output, and Gallente drones generally have the highest damage of the lot. Training drones is a great way to kill those pesky frigates while big guns take out the big (and more rewarding) ships.
Four minutes of cap. Players should avoid using all the rig slots to get cap to that level (those rigs can just as easily be used to increase damage, and damage = tank = ISK), and use as few modules as possible. In that case, using a cap booster may not be out of the question; while the boosters cost money (about 2000 ISK for an 800 size), it is quite easy to compensate for this loss with higher damage. If a player uses three slots for cap, but replaces them with a cap booster and two damage mods, it is clear to see they will profit from it at the end.
THE SHOOTING BIT
So, now we have a ship that can only just tank the mission and has as many slots as possible dedicated to killing stuff faster. As in the first article, fit the biggest guns that one can fit without gimping the rest of the ship. However, keep in mind the damage type of the NPCs. The damage they inflict is also the damage that they tank the worst. Blood Raiders deal and are weak to EM and Thermal damage, so one should shoot them with EM and Thermal weapons, which means lasers. Thus Amarr boats are very good at killing blood raiders. On the other hand, Angel rats do explosive/kinetic damage, so their resistance holes are the same. This makes the Amarr ships (which do EM/Thermal damage and have explosive/kinetic resist holes) terrible against Angels. Which ships do explosive/kinetic damage? Minmatar, which is why the Maelstrom is one of the best anti-Angel ratters out there. Once again, EVE Survival is a very good resource to get such information.
A very effective (and better than the first version) Angel hunting Maelstrom
Make sure to have the corresponding damage modifiers (heat sink/laser, gyrostabiliser/projectile, magnetic field stab/hybrid, ballistic control/missile), and put two at the least. Since there are no range/tracking modules for missiles, go for broke with damage upgrades. If there are three slots for damage upgrades, as I explained in the last article, reflect on the third damage upgrade and whether another module (tracking enhancers are very common) might have more real-world impact. Remember also that close-range ammo generally has better tracking and damage than long-range ammo, and that faction ammo (while more expensive) is an easy way to get a damage boost.
TO BLING OR NOT TO BLING?
Using faction or deadspace modules obviously increase tanking and damage-dealing ability at the expense of price, sometimes a huge price. Given that the whole point of PvE is to make ISK, using very expensive modules to slightly increase damage can only pay off after a while. Do you see ratting as an occasional thing? Or are you ratting 10+ hours a week to pay for game time? Are you a PvE maniac?
For the former case, avoid faction modules entirely. A faction damage module costs roughly 25 times as much (about 1 million ISK vs 50 million), and for the typical three damage mods and perhaps a faction repair module players will nearly double the value of their ship. The relative increase in payoff will only be a few percent, and consequently a player will have to play a dozen or so hours to make the investment worth it.
For the middle case, it may pay off to get some faction damage modules and perhaps a faction repair module. The repair module may allow for additional damage mods (since tanking ability is increased), and the higher damage will pay off after a few weeks of play. I will repeat myself from my last article: never, ever fit faction guns: they simply transform the ship in question into a loot pinata (all that happens is you pay 20 times the price for a little less DPS). A faction/pirate ship is also a respectable investment, and contrary to expensive modules is less likely to get ganked. Though the rate of repayment is harder to measure, navy version of ships have an extra slot that allow more damage mods to be fitted, and have more buffer tank (so one can both reduce tanking and increase damage). Another way to get an extra 5% damage without wrecking the bank or turning your ship into a target is an implant: there are implants for almost every kind of weapon, and while investing into one will cost about 100million, the increase in damage is likely greater than fitting a fourth damage module, and doesn't gimp your fit! Marauders are also worth looking at, but in many cases (and especially after the ratting loot nerf) the benefits aren't as proportional as faction ships.
An example of a faction-fit navy geddon for sanctum running. Facemelting DPS... Notice also the reactive armour hardener that does not stack with normal hardeners! Such a fit costs around four times a normal tech 2 armageddon, but has an added ~130 DPS including the implant.
For the latter case: same as above. I expect some of you were going to expect deadspace or officer modules, but I believe people who fly such PvE ships to be slightly retarded. First of all, even low-grade deadspace repair modules will cost more than a tier 3 battleship (over 250m). Officer damage modules are similar: they offer a slight damage increase with a disproportionate increase in price. A faction heat sink will cost about 60 mil for a 2.5% damage increase (that's about 50 times the price of a tech 2 heat sink). An officer heat sink will net 2.5% more damage than that, but at ten times the price of faction mod. Thus, at a very respectable tick rate of 90mil per hour (not really achievable in high sec, but doable in nullsec), the benefit of getting an officer module, a single one, will take three hundred hours of grinding to pay itself back. Oh yeah, and the ship may as well have a big neon sign on the side that says 'shoot me, please'.
DON'T BE A SQUARE
The final point of this guide: there is no one solution. Consider your character's strengths, the ships you own, and the PvE that is available to you. Experiment (within reason) and see if you can tweak a couple more million ISK per tick. Recording your ISK ticks over an hour, then repeating the same with a tweak is a good way to measure differences. Remember: one can make very respectable money with a correspondingly cheap ship if it is fitted correctly!
Check back for the next article in this series covering PvP fittings.