Posted Tue, Mar 30, 2010 by Space Junkie
R&D agents are a special kind of NPC agent that will perform research for players that meet their requirements. This research is represented by the steady accumulation of research points, which you can intermittently cash in for various kinds of Datacores. Datacores are special items that are used for inventing tech two modules, and enjoy a brisk trade at market hubs, like Jita.
The neat thing about these agents is that, once spoken to, they will continue to produce research points on their own, without any interaction from the player. That means that they are what we call a "passive income source." Passive income sources are ideal because they mean that you can spend less time grinding for ISK, and more time doing whatever it is you enjoy. Each character may only have a certain number of research agents working for him, at a time, though, so there is a hard limit to the amount of datacores that you can have pouring in, at any given time.
Because of the way missions work, if you're going for level four missions in general, you may as well also get R&D agents going at the same time. That way you get datacores to sell, while running your level four agents, in perpetuity.
Let's say that I decide to do R&D agents for the Amarr faction, since I live in Amarr space and having high standings with them will generally come in handy. I search on an agent-finder web site to see what level four R&D agents are available for Amarr, and notice that they all belong to the Carthum Conglomerate corporation. Obviously, these is the best Amarr research corporation.
In order to get access to level four Carthum agents, I would run the Amarr newbie missions, turn in tags at the faction data centers, and run level two and three missions until I had great Amarr faction standing. Then I would run level four Carthum agents until my Carthum standing was high enough to access the R&D agents.
After visiting each of the highest-level Carthum agents and getting them to research datacores for me, I would check in every few months in order to pick up the datacores so produced. Then I would either sell the datacores in Jita or use them for invention, depending on what projects I had going at that point in time.
Accessing An R&D Agent
Unlike most agents, R&D agents require a corporate standing rather than a good corporate standing or good faction standing. That is, even if you have faction standings high enough to use a normal level four agent, it won't do you any good with the R&D agents. Getting high Amarr standings is faster than getting high Carthum standings, though, so you want to run the tutorial agents, turn in tags, and do all the other stuff mentioned in my previous two articles. Once you've gone as far as you care to, with faction standings, you should check to see what level Carthum agents you can access. Ideally, it should be level 3, though perhaps 2 is more likely if you are stingy with turning in tags.
Find Carthum agents of the highest level that you can, of whatever type you prefer. I prefer agents that give me mostly combat missions. Run those Carthum agents, moving up the ladder to higher level agents, until you finally have access to level four Carthum agents.
Skills For R&D Agents
Each character may use a single R&D agent, plus an additional agent per level of the Research Project Management skill that they have trained. I recommend training it to level four. The pre-requisites for this skill are pretty intense (as is the ISK cost) if you don't already have them, but well worth it, as I explain later. In order to train Research Project Management, you need to train Laboratory Operation V, Research V, and Science III.
Additionally, the kinds of datacores that your agent can produce are limited by your skills, and also by their own particular areas of research. Some agents may be able to research Mechanical Engineering datacores, which are possibly the most lucrative at the time of this writing. The higher your Mechanical Engineering skill, the more datacores your agent will produce, each day.