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EVE Online theorycrafting and history

Missing Skills: Black Market Trading

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If you poke around EveBoard’s list of the characters in Eve with the highest SP, you’ll notice that a few pilots have some skills trained that aren’t found on the Market.  Where did these skills come from?

In many cases, these are skills that were added for an upcoming feature and made available early (through market seeding, agent LP rewards, or NPC pirate drop tables), only to have that feature canceled.  CCP would stop seeding the skillbooks on the market, but any of the already-purchased skillbooks in people’s inventories would remain.  If you had already injected the skillbook and trained it up early, the SP would stay in your head, forever useless. [1]

After their cancellation, skillbooks for these lost skills would occasionally show up on Contracts for huge prices, catering to collectors, but are otherwise not widely available.  CCP even makes a nod to collectors for some of them: the description of Astronautic Engineering, should you find one of those rare skillbooks, will read: “Skill and knowledge of Astronautics and its use in the development of advanced technology.  This skill has no practical application for capsuleers, and proficiency in its use conveys little more than bragging rights.  Can not be trained on Trial Accounts.”  Out of the 6.7M players currently being tracked by EveBoard, only 143 characters have this skill — bragging rights, indeed!

Some of these skillbooks eventually get removed from the game entirely: for example, Mobile Factory Operation and Mobile Refinery Operation have been marked in the Eve item database as “unpublished,” and will no longer appear in-game in Market or Contracts searches.  But, the skillbooks definitely existed in the past, and were being traded for billions of isk each, as late as 2010.

However, there’s three of these lost skills that are particularly special: they never had skillbooks created for them in the first place! They are:

  • Genetic Engineering
  • Mnemonics
  • Black Market Trading

The first two of these skills, if you were lucky enough to have them, were removed from all character sheets (and their SP refunded) during the Crucible expansion.  However, the Black Market Trading skill can still be found in some players’ sheets.  How did you get these skills?

These three skills were obtained during the old character creation system.  Today, when you create a new character, you always start with the same balanced attributes, and eleven skills: the appropriate turret skill and frigate skill for your chosen race, and nine common basic skills.  But, this wasn’t always the case.  Character creation used to completely and totally suck:

  • Your choice of character race, family, and occupation determined your base training attributes; certain races would learn skills faster than others, in certain fields.  This is why, in Eveboard’s global ranking, the vast majority of the highest-SP characters are either Gallente Intaki Reborn or one of the Caldari Deteis — they had the highest Perception score, which is used in the most skills.
  • Your choice of occupation would also determine what skills you started with.  Not only was there a wide variation of starting skills, but some skills were worth more SP than others — a character could start the game with as little as 6,000 SP, or as high as 300,000 SP, depending on their choices.
  • No matter what you picked, you were pretty much useless at the start of your Eve career.  Today’s “ten days to get into a competent PvP Catalyst” simply wasn’t happening back then.  On top of that, you had learning skills to do first!  (Eve used to have meta-skills that gave you permanently higher attribute points, making all other subsequent training faster: the first order of business on any newly rolled character was training up those skills to 5.)

If you think Eve is unfriendly to newbies today, then trust me — it used to be much worse.

So, when your choice of race/family/occupation determined your starting skills, some of those combinations included unique skills that could only be received on birth.  Black Market Trading, the only one to still exist, was obtained by rolling a Minmatar Vherokior Retailer.  There is no other way to obtain this skill: you need to have a character of that combination, created prior to the character creation revamp in late 2006.

What does Black Market Trading do?  Officially, the skill description states that it reduces the chance for high-sec Customs Agent NPCs to detect contraband — boosters, and certain roleplay / mission items such as the Khumaak — in your cargohold.

BMT in game, on one of Nam's cyno alts.

However, repeated testing indicates that the skill is broken (or never implemented) and doesn’t actually affect the game.  So, it remains simply a memento of how much better Eve is today, and a good story to tell.

1: Sometimes, forever is a short time.  For many years, Salvage Drone Operation was one of these canceled skills; when CCP eventually implemented them, nearly five years later, they simply reused the existing apocryphal skill, and started seeding the books again.

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