Monday, July 26, 2010

Skills Queue Update

By the time this is posted, S.W. will be fielding T2 Heavy Drones, and on the road to Strategic Cruisers. Following the Strategic Cruiser skills comes T2 Projectiles and T2 Minmitar Cruisers. Then T2 missiles and shield support skills. Finally, T2 Sentry Drones and it will be fall, with the leaves starting to turn. I'm a bit excited for the Strategic Cruiser - I've got some fits for the Proteus that seem to be really friendly to losec solo gate camping, and nasty. My full plan runs just under 180 days, and puts me in fully T2 fit racial T2 Cruisers except Logistics. I should be focusing on the T2 PvE Drake fit - but I can't admit that PvE is going to consume that much of my near future. The alt here needs to get PI skills up to snuff - in fact S.W. doesn't have P.I. skill up to snuff yet so that simple passive income stream needs some love too.

B. has finished Mining Barge V, and is currently on Gallente Industrial V, he will be rounding out the Hulk and Viator/Occator skills after that. R&D skills will move back to the fore with him, including Frigate and Cruiser Construction V. That should push about 60 days total, so he'll get an update in early October, either to start into the 2nd Tier refining skills or BC/BS Construction skills.

Of course, the super-secret alt account rages on, as planned. Sorry, no skill plan update here. Suffice it to say this toon would make any combat alliance happy once it leaves the noobcorp.

Yes - I have 3 paid accounts, and 5 characters, but in reality 3 of those 5 characters are idle or just skill training, one is my indy/income toon, and S.W. is my combat toon.

Oh, and happy birthday to me, I'm 41 today.

First Blood: Nullsec Newbie

This is my entry to the Inspired By Images Of Eve Competition 2. More details and links to all entrants can be found at Starfleet Comms.

"Buy you another?"

I looked at the man standing next to my stool. Well dressed. Too well dressed for a backwater station like this one.

"Depends. What do you want?"

He thrust his hand towards me. "Jambya Munitionary, ISD Correspondent. I'm doing a profile on capsuleers who are new to the area. Your name floated to the top of my list, since you have only been here a few weeks."

Nonchanlantly withdrawing his hand, he took the stool next to me.

"Did you fly a lot of combat up in Empire before coming here?" he asked, as he pulled out a data recorder and activated it.

"Not really. I've awakened in a clone vat bay a few times, but I'm in training out here as a combat pilot." I took a sip of the bitter beer in front of me. "Is this an interview then?"

"Well, sort of. I'm profiling combat pilots to discuss the ships they fly and why. I've spoken to a lot of the big-ship capsuleers, but I wanted to get the angle from a frigate pilot. I looked up your records and found you've got 25 kills to 1 loss flying interceptors."

"Interceptor," I corrected him. "Thunores has been my girl since I arrived. She still has structure damage from the first fight that I haven't had repaired yet - as a reminder."

"Thunores - that's what you call your ship?"

"Yes. It comes from an ancient, long dead language. It means Thunder God. You ever sit in an interceptor?"

"Well, no. I'm not a licensed pilot, but -"

"An interceptor is pretty much all guns and engine. Even inside the pod the rumble of the guns and engines resonate in your ears like a pounding surf. That's why I call her Thunder God."

I sat back, nodding as the bartender left another bitter by my hand.

"I didn't always call her that. She started out with a nice name, Queen MAB. I thought at first she was a small, spritely ship, agile and elegant. That was before I'd actually flown her in battle..."

"It was only a few months ago that I arrived out here. I was so green they thought I got spacesick. I was certified as an interceptor pilot, but I didn't know how to fly in combat. I'd become fed up with the cost-cutting measures at The Scope for months, and the announcement that soon they would begin taxing all Capsuleers who worked with them had pushed me over the limit. I had flown missions for various agents while working with The Scope, and often I had conversations with Capsuleers who worked in the private sector - for themselves or for corporations that were not merely shallow fronts for the various empires. The transparent tax was the last straw. I was going to join one of these independent corporations, and I knew which one. I had spoken to their CEO, a fine pilot named Pierre. He and his crew were fighting in the Caldari-Gallente war, on the side of Gallente, but finding that the sheer numbers of Caldari pilots online were overwhelming his strike team. There would be changes, but they welcomed my long experience as a capsuleer to provide additional depth to the organization. I submitted my resignation from The Scope and joined Aurora Security.

Shortly after joining, I was informed that Aurora Security had been invited to join an alliance that flew in the far reaches of Outer Ring, based out of the Outer Ring Excavation stations in 4C-B7X. I had heard the stories of lawless space - where huge fleets sat on stargates destroying everything in their path. I had never destroyed another Capsuleer in combat, although I had fallen victim to pirates and others a few times in my years as a pilot. With the corporate logistics team moving my ships out to the Outer Ring station, I found myself suddenly deep in lawless space, with no experience whatsoever. Pierre was a skilled instructor, better than anyone at the Center for Advanced Studies (at least in combat). He and his fleet commanders worked tirelessly to train myself and the other new members of our alliance in the survival and combat skills needed in the deep reaches of space. Training flights were thinly veiled roams into neighboring regions, looking for neutral targets."

I paused, thinking back to that moment. Even now, weeks later, my pulse quickened as I relived the experience.

"We were formed up on the gate, my Taranis orbiting around 500m from the gate as we scouted the system. I reviewed my ships systems, verifying that the Warp and Sublight Disruption systems were online and awaiting a target. I was primary tackle, my job was to respond to targets called by the fleet commander and prevent them from warping away or getting to the stargate. My sensors flickered briefly, registering a stargate activation. My camera drones all blacked out moments later, and the visual flash from the gate activation overloaded their sensors. I was primed, my overview systems awaiting the appearance of the enemy ships. As I listened to fleet comms, local registration announced there was only one hostile in system. Moments later a ship appeared on my overview - a Raven-class Battleship.

The ship blocked out the sun as I activated my Microwarp drive and targeting systems, accelerating towards the Raven. I settled into a tight orbit around him. Even with the Microwarp drive pulling me from my requested distance, I was far too close and fast to take any serious damage from his advanced missile systems. 'Point - Web' I announced on comms, as my modules registered locks on the Raven. I activated my blasters, even though they would barely reduce the recharge of his shield systems. The fleet began unloading all damage on the Raven, eating into his shields. As I watched the battle unfold, I received an alert that my own shields were taking significant damage, and that damage was starting to break through to my armor. I asked Pierre if I should continue to hold the Raven, as it appeared we were close to destroying his ship, and my armor began to leak into structure. Pierre ordered me to warp off and repair, rather than lose my ship.

I started to activate my warp drive, but I had forgotten we were fighting in a warp interdiction bubble. These devices disrupt all warp drives within them, and automatic warp activation is useless. I was panicking now, about to lose my first real combat ship in it's first encounter, when I remembered I could align to a celestial object, activate my Microwarp drive and get out of the interdiction range quickly. As I aligned, the Raven exploded, but somehow I was still taking damage. My inefficient armor repair system was just keeping even with the damage, and I was confused, so I continued my acceleration and warped to a nearby planet. I sat idle while my ships repair systems worked on the armor plates, patching and fusing the damage that was caused (as I was informed by my fleetmates) by a flight of deadly Tech 2 Warrior drones the Raven had unleashed on me."

My hand shook slightly as I recalled the adrenaline surge from surviving my first aggressive encounter. The reporter sat, quietly, the data recording blinking intermittently.

"It was after that battle I realized that she wasn't Queen MAB. She was a roaring surge of blasters and thrust nozzles. It felt like sitting outside in the middle of a thunderstorm back home. That's when I knew she needed a new name. Thunores - god of thunder"

I finished the bitter beer, took a deep breath, and stood.

"I gotta go. We have a defense patrol in 5 minutes. Good luck with your story - and make sure you take an alliance carrier back to empire. I'd hate to have to blow up your ship..."

Friday, July 23, 2010

The AFK nature of Planetary Interaction

First, I think I mentioned there's a new podling in my house. Yes, about a month ago my beautiful wife gave birth to our 2nd daughter. Unsurprisingly (to anyone who spends time around children or has them), they are two very different little girls. My eldest was sleeping through the night by the 2nd week, but even when she didn't, she slept in her bassinet. My youngest is a veritable cling-on. She only falls asleep when being held (or after 30+ minutes of ear-shattering wails), and wakes easily when put down. Why do you care? Well, this explains why my posts are very Carebear in nature. When you are juggling an exhausted spouse, a 2 year old and an infant, grand combat (such as defending a sov station) really isn't realistic. And sadly, I missed out on what is being described (by both sides) as a brilliant multi-hour campaign to save (or take, depending on your position) Sovereignty and a station. But I can, instead of describing an epic battle, talk about how Planetary Interaction is a great AFK low-maintenance way to earn ISK while you can't undock.

Planetary Interaction (PI) is the latest mini-game within EVE, and although rough around the edges provides a low-maintenance path to slow ISK growth when RL prevents logging in for longer (1 hr+) sessions. The hardest part is finding and setting up a production chain that requires little maintenance, but once that chain is setup you can touch EVE for 15 minutes, say hi, update your extraction cycles and/or processors, and go back to RL.

Get skills for 3/4 planets, find a system to product tier 3 or tier 4 goods from scratch. It will take a while to break even, since you don't have time to go buy tier 1 or tier 2 goods and just process them, but it lets you log into chat-with-spaceship-backgrounds for a bit every day.

And, that's all the time I have to post.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CSM: Lame Duck from the beginning?

Welcome to the nineteenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This months topic comes to us from @evepress, and he asks: The CSM: CCP's Meta Game? - The CSM, an eve players voice to CCP. Right? In the grand scheme of things yes, the players bring up issues and the CSM presents them to CCP. But in its current iteration the CSM was supposed to be given small authority to assign CCP assets to projects that the CSM thought needed work on. As it has not come out this was not the case. So fellow bloggers, is the CSM worth it, has the CSM improved the game in any way, or is it just a well thought out scam by CCP to give us players a false sense of input in the game? What's your take?

Ah, the CSM. As this was the third CSM I voted in, I was actually interested in the candidates, platforms, and the spin from CCP that CSM would be "stakeholders" in the development of EVE. I used my votes (yes, multiple accounts) to cover both of my interests, LoSec and Nullsec. But was it worth the effort? Does the CSM do anything to improve the game? TL;DR: yes and sort of.

Of the people, by the people
I have always had high hopes for the CSM since I learned of this player-elected body. I am one of those who believe that CCP should listen to a filtered version of the player requests, since the sheer volume of "I wants" in this game would overwhelm anyone, and most of them don't balance the game effectively. In my fantasy, CSM is that filter, presenting the most focused, widely supported concerns of the playerbase in a way that enhances the game. And to the extent they can present those issues, CSM is a success. The minutes from the summit in Iceland show that the CSM (overall) presented widely supported issues or ideas to CCP.

Telephone Game, anyone?
As is always the case when the marketing department gets to filter the announcement, CSM is not actually a stakeholder, or at least not directly. They get a CCP employee to play the telephone game between the CSM and the actual development team. The breakdown goes like this: Players present issues to CSM members (usually in the EVE Forums). Other players support or troll those issues, until someone from CSM sees it, evaluates it, brings it back to the group, and they hash it out even more. Once they have a clear issue, position (and maybe even idea for solution), they bring it to their appointed CCP representative. That person then takes those issues and brings them to the stakeholder meeting and presents them, in whatever secret back-room meetings discuss the future of EVE development. I'm sure that even though the ideas are filtered more and more (Players -> CSM -> Representative -> Developers) they maintain their original weight and intent, right? Telephone always worked well for me as a child. Oh, wait...

Steady as she goes...
As repeated ad infinium in the CSM Summit minutes, CCP doesn't have resources to devote to CSM-raised issues for the next 18 months. On the positive spin side, if CCP has an 18-month plan in place and it is so rock-solid that they know exactly what is going to be in each expansion and point release, then they should already be aware of the existing major gameplay issues and have plans to address them in some way during that cycle. Unfortunately, the minutes tell a different tale, a tale of "oh, yeah, that's a problem, but we aren't going to fix it in the next year and a half. Now I'm a realist - software development cycles are not short, and plans have to be made far in advance to really develop quality products. But if CCP is serious about the CSM as a player represented stakeholder, they need to make some room. The "Winter Expansion" should include resolution to some issues brought up by the CSM. That gives CCP almost 6 months to cherry pick the ideas presented and incorporate solutions to some of those issues into that expansion. If that were to happen (and I'm just not so positive it will) then CCP could back up their (currently) hollow promise of CSM as stakeholders, and that they listen to and respond to the established, playing (paying) players.

If that doesn't happen then we all will know truly that CSM is merely a marketing ploy, a lame duck from it's inception.

Late Update
Of course, after I took the time to write this, CCP Zulu comes out with a defensive Dev Blog, a number of the Dev team is pulled in from vacation for damage control on the resulting threadnaught, and everyone is still up in arms about the future. One fine post summarizes this banter easily though, from the aforementioned threadnaught:
The important thing to note here is that there's an incredible number of new features presented by the CSM. Even if they're all "old features" that went derelict, they're still basically changes to the way Eve works now. Honestly, I'd say that the CSM outlined at least 3 possible expansions - and maybe a lot more.

I don't think its reasonable for the CSM to expect all of their issues to be addressed - or even a majority of them. They might be able to convince CCP to change an upcoming expansion if they get enough detailed and solid ideas in place - but they aren't in place fast enough to take part in the planning of the current expansion.

Meh. What I'm really left with here is the perception that CCP and the CSM are both doing a not horrible job with the cards they've been given. I agree very very strongly with the CSM that it feels a lot of features are being left behind and eventually we end up with not just code bloat, but also feature bloat. I agree strongly with CCP that they need to work on Incarna and Dust. I think Dust is a really big gamble, but Incarna is probably going to be a good thing once its fully out.

Furthermore, the CSM has no right at all to request that CCP stop work on these titles to focus on Eve. Their best line of attack is to request more development resources for Eve proper - which might include hiring a new team or two. Which they appear to be doing.

I dunno. I feel like a lot of the rage over this is unjustified and caused because the CSM is coming into things at the beginning of a release instead of when planning started (but can they ever be there when planning potentially starts months and years before?).

CSM5: Mismanaged Expectations on everyone's part.

(original quote here)

See other participants:

1. Growing Pains | CrazyKinux's Musing
2. CSM: Hoax or Serious Business? « Lost in New Eden
3. CSM-Power to the people or puppets of CCP « A whole lot of Yarrrr!!!
4. Gaming the CSM | A Mule in EvE
5. A Taste Of Democracy | StarFleet Comms
6. CSM: Player Power or Paper Tiger? | I Am Keith Neilson
7. Governance Thrash Redux? « The Ralpha Dogs
8. CCP Doesn’t Care: Blog Banter 19 « OMG! You're a Chick?!
9. The Cataclysmic Variable: It's Crunch Time!
10. The 19th EVE Blog Banter is upon us… and about the CSM and CCP | Victoria Aut Mors
11. More to come...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Juggling RL and EVE (literally)

[NOTE: RL Commentary]
With a new baby at home, EVE has become a fleeting moment caught one night or another, in between putting a two year old to bed and having a two-week old dropped on my lap. I've come to appreciate the simple, one-handed clicking nature of established PI chains during this stretch, but it leaves my PvP addiction aching with the cramps of withdrawal.
[END RL Commentary]

The excitement (and it appears, great success) of Hulkageddon III adds to my frustration, as I didn't have time to prep a ganking alt, so my mining alt is doing PI only during this time (the baby makes him even more of an AFK miner, which is an ideal target during the summer of gank). I've been following this event with much jealousy, as I really wanted to get in on the third iteration (I was a bystander for I and II, other than a few announcements in the public channel when T2 barges were spotted in hisec local). But, enough with the whining. Last night I was on my IM client that has pretty spaceship backgrounds (aka EVE) typing one-handed while holding the baby (who wasn't sleeping and was definitely crying). I saw intel reports of a small hostile gang approaching our station.

Timing was perfect for us, as there was a decent crowd in station, in between a just-finished POS bash and an about-to-start frigate/cruiser roam. For me, the baby had started to settle, and I was trying to figure out how to hold her on my lap so both hands could fly a combat ship. Logging on to TS, I jumped back to station (my 0.0 clone is implant free at the moment due to an unfortunate bubble incident), hopped in my Enyo Assault Frigate Goddess Fury, figured out how to balance the baby on my lap and hold her in place with a loose elbow so both hands could drive, and undocked, warping to the gate. The enemy gang (8 ships, mostly Cruisers/BCs, a couple Drakes and a Loki) were aggressed against our bait Domi on a gate. Fleet jumps in, lands on gate (I'm still getting on ship in station, 30 second session change timer sucks) and starts targeting and tackling the reds. I get in ship, undock, warp to gate, jump in, join fleet and warp to fleet, but the KB doesn't show me on the Curse kill (I had him targeted and my drones were out...). We lost a Scimi (one of our new pilots had auto targeting active and neuted OUR Scimi - FAIL), and took out a Loki, Curse and Cyclone. The enemy had successfully deaggressed and warped out (lost points - FAIL), but they then warped back to fly home - we had a couple pilots able to jump through with them, we pointed a Drake and took him down. I got my first kill in probably a month (the withdrawal was killing me), and the remains of the gang fled back to their station systems. At that point the baby started to stir, making the lap-hold less stable and safe, so I docked back up and logged, as the rest of the fleet reshipped for the roam.

If only EVE could present quick bouts of PvP like that for me each of my momentary logins...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Serpentis Watch and the EVE Player Blogroll

Got a note from the reputed "Blogfather" Crazy Kinux today, the third iteration of my EVE blog has made the basic EVE Players Blogroll. Crazy Kinux has been blogging about EVE for quite sometime, and if you don't know about his blog (or the rest of the blogroll) you should check them out.

Yesterday I took out my all-purpose complex Myrmidon to wander around the edges of hisec empire and probe out any interesting complexes in the less trafficked systems. Got lucky in my destination system with a hit on the unknown Complex "Serpentis Watch." A quick check of the Neocom database did not reveal anything about this complex beyond an error where it appears on the scanner but is vacant. Warping to the signal, I encountered a single acceleration gate, unguarded but for a beacon warning that the Serpentis do not take kindly to visitors. Ignoring the warning, I activated the gate, warping deeper into the complex.

Arrving in the second area, I was almost immediately targeted by a group of Serpentis pilots - mostly flying Destroyer-class ship, some in Cruisers. Examining all data on my overview, I realized there were 5 such groups, two included more advanced cruisers, likely the squadron leaders. As I returned fire and deployed drones, I intercepted communications revealing that the two command cruisers had requested backup - and that included a commander in a Bruitx-class Battlecruiser. My overview was literally full of hostile ships, pounding on my armor and wearing down my defenses - it must have been almost 20 cruisers, 20+ destroyers, the commander and his 5 lieutenants. They pounded on my ship, taxing my armor repair systems to their utmost, as my railguns and drones slowly worked through the enemy ships. At one point, they had managed to get through my armor, damaging my probe launcher and other core components directly, before they were all destroyed. As I destroyed the commander's ship, Aura informed me that an acceleration gate had just activated. Preparing for more reinforcements, I reloaded my guns and continued cycling my armor repair systems. When none arrived, I cautiously approached the gate, then, once my armor was fully repaired and my shields had partially recharged, I activated the second gate.

Coming out of warp, my overview was filled with structures, but only a handful of Catalyst-class destroyers - perhaps 4 or 5. I made short work of them as I examined the other items on my overview. Far above the main structure, there was a Smuggler's Gate, much like the ones I'd seen in Cloud Ring. Although similar, this gate looked less sturdy than it's fellows in the reaches of nullsec, so I targeted it with my heavy drones and rails, deciding to end the Serpentis secret entry to this system. As the gate began to take damage, my combat alerts went wild. Almost a duplicate squadron of vessels to the previous area were arriving through the Smuggler's Gate, hoping to defend it before I could destroy it. Knowing how close the previous battle had been, I immediately aligned to a nearby planet, activated my afterburner, and began targeting the nearest ships. Molten charges from my guns (and theirs) tore across the reaches of space, but I was better prepared for this group of pirates, and destroyed them one by one, when suddenly the gate activated again. Cursing that I had forgotten to destroy it completely, I saw another dozen ships arrive on scene, mixed cruisers and advanced frigates. Assigning my drones to finish off the gate, I continued to burn away from my enemies, peppering them with railgun charges. It was then that my chief gunner informed me that I was out of antimatter ammunition, and had only one full rack of Uranium charges I had looted from a ship in the previous area. I would have to depend on my drones to finish off this threat.
Slowly my drones worked through the ships, I would occasionally have to recall and recharge their shields as my opponents targeted them, but eventually nothing remained but the 30-40 odd wrecks. Knowing I was extrememly low on ammunition, I immediately examined the cruiser and battlecruiser wrecks looking for unused rounds to refill my empty guns, as I let my armor repair and capacitor recharge, knowing that this pirate den was closed...for now.

Serpentis Watch (Unknown Combat Site)
Room 1: Acceleration Gate, no NPCs
Room 2: 4 groups of 3 Destroyers/3 Cruisers. Destroying each Corelium Scout spawns another wave of Cruisers and Destroyers. The final wave includes a Corelium Militant Commander (gate trigger). Destroy this ship to activate the Acceleration Gate.
Room 3: 4/5 Destroyers. Multiple Structures. Attack the Smuggler's Gate to activate the final combat spawn - there are at least two of these including the Overseer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

EVE utility websites

EVE is a complex universe, but with API access for external tools try to make it easier to find and get information. Here's a shortlist of websites you should have bookmarked, and use regularly:

  • DOTLAN - a beautiful reference of the EVE universe, including printable combat maps. One of the newest features is the ability to see, at a glance, where various planet types exist in any given region. I use DOTLAN daily - with combat/kill updates, jump planning, and more. If you haven't spent time with DOTLAN - you haven't really seen EVE.

  • EVE-Survival is great for the PvE crowd - with details on missions, structure drops, triggers, blitz plans, and more. Back in the olden carebear days of my youth I had EVE-Survival up non-stop while missioning.

  • EVE Agents is another carebear/isk farming tool. Need to know where to find the nearest R&D agent for Hydromagnetic Physics datacores, or just a good L4 agent for Republic Security Services? EVE Agents has them all - even agents in space.

  • EVE Central is another tool site. Want to know the best price for anything that is on the EVE Market? It's listed on EVE Central - even with most recent transactions (within an hour or so). Don't spend too much on that ship when you can jump regions quickly and save tens of millions. Shop first at EVE Central.

  • EVE Ships is less exciting than the others, but for pilots trying to learn all the various shipnames, types, and such, a great resource. There's even a quiz - how many ships can you name in 60 seconds?

  • BattleClinic is the granddaddy of EVE sites for ship loadouts. Need to see some options on that new Claw? Battleclinic users can rate loadouts. Want to know who just blew up your ship? Check the killboard for their statistics and history.

  • Scrapheap Challenge and The EVE Online Uncensored forum at Kugutsmen are better news than in the EVE Online CAOD forum (usually) - but still should be taken with a grain of salt for factual information.

  • EVElopedia is the home of the official EVE item database - for statistics on every item under the sun.

  • Chruker's EVE site is the last one for this list, and it's a doozy. Tons of information on a variety of topics. I use it most for ship invention calculations to choose my decryptors (or not).

On a RL note, my wife recently gave birth to our 2nd daughter. Things may be more quiet here since I won't be ingame so much for a while.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Planetary Interaction short term review

So I've had PI processes up and running from day 1. I'm trying to keep it simple, so I'm only doing POS fuel bits, and only in one system where there are POS towers, so I can be in space safely when needed. Here's the short list of things I wish I'd known when I laid down my first centers:

  1. Plan first: I knew what I wanted to produce, and thought I had it all worked out, but I didn't. I've torn down my setup on 4 of 5 planets at least twice now. Part of that was poor planning. I am still tweaking the setups, and at the cost of a few million ISK each time it does get annoying. I could have planned even more and maybe had some of those stable from the first setup.

  2. Watch your processor loads.This one came to me just yesterday, and resulted in some of my rebuilding. Depending on the extraction cycle, you can overload your processor, which (I'm assuming) will lead to lost/wasted resources. Keeping track of the % of incoming materials to the processor and making sure it doesn't go over 100% (by much) will ensure you get maximum return on extraction. On the flip side, the extraction cycle you choose can affect the percentage of incoming resources, it seems, so it may be worth considering storage silos for large extraction sites - with a two way link between the processor and the silo to get the materials processed and safely stored. I'm still working through this, but I'm seeing a logical reason for silos more often than my initial setups anticipated...

  3. Profitability levels: I don't know if anyone is getting rich on raw PI production. I know (from experience) that the activity/profit level seems pretty high for me, since I am doing 24 or 96 hour cycles, so I don't babysit much. However, my setup is not providing the volume of materials I wanted, so the activity/profit level may be lower for useful production. As a byproduct it's not so bad just hauling stuff to trade hubs every week or two.

  4. Command Center or Spaceport... So I initially installed Spaceports on all my planets, to take advantage of the customs offices. I'm rethinking this on planets where I don't need Import and the volume is small. The PG freed up from a Spaceport for an additional extractor (or longer links) is tempting on T2 production. Don't automatically assume you need a Spaceport, and make sure your Command Center is close to the processing area - just in case you need to use it for a launchpad

begin ramble...
Start with one planet, and one process, whether it's a T1 or T2 product. Start simple. Cluster your extractors close to the first T1 processor to keep the link PG low. If you are trying to get a lot of material, add a silo between the extractors and the processor, with a two way link. If you aren't importing goods to the planet, consider using the command center as your launchpad - and apply the PG/CPU to more extraction or processing. Once you get one planet all setup, move to the next. If you are doing similar processes on similar planets, set up all those first. I did my Gas/Storm setups first to get the easy Coolant and Oxygen processes running, and since they are end products (in my chain) and there is no planetary import, I use the Command Center as my final storage and launchpad.
My robotics chain is more complicated, since I didn't have a convenient planet to run the whole chain in one place, so on my Barren planet I'm using a Spaceport for Import and Export, and (conveniently) it's a silo for the process materials as well. Two-way links FTW.
If you are just getting into PI for profit, you need to do the prerequisite research. Check the various product prices on the markets, and figure out where your top profitability lies, based on the planets available to you. Build the biggest Command Center you can. Seriously - train that skill to L4 if you didn't already. 17k PG goes so quickly you'll start rearranging your extractors and processors to minimize link distances and create shortest path links. I often use EVE Central for price checking - it's a great resource in or out of game so you don't need to log in that Jita alt.