Invention is the process of converting tech one blueprint copies into tech two blueprint copies. It seems intimidating and difficult, at first, but once you figure out the general process and it all clicks, you will realize how easy it is to make extra ISK given a little bit of legwork and some minimal start-up capital.
The margins on inventing modules can be decent, especially when the tech two products are sold away from market hubs. The skills involved aren't too bad, and many of them are handy in other areas of the game, like R&D agents, advanced electronic warfare skills, or the skill needed to open a cynosural field, this last being essential for using capital ships outside of high-sec.
As a mostly passive income source, invention makes an excellent supplement to whatever other income sources you may have going. Even relatively new players can break into invention, if they are willing to train the skills. This guide explains the basic process of invention, and for the sake of simplicity, only describes inventing modules.
In order to invent a module, two or more special skills may be required, and one or more special items will be needed. Nor is that the end of it. Inventing is actually the easy part, compared to producing tech two modules. That process involves many, many ingredients made from a bewildering array of components and trade goods, and requires even more skills. Other guides will cover that can of worms, but for now worry about the invention process.
Each module is associated with one of the races of EVE Online. Usually, but with many exceptions, it is in that race's area of expertise. What race a module is associated with will determine what skills and items are needed to invent it.
Step One: Pick A Module
The first thing you need to do is decide what module you are going to invent. This will determine the skills that you need to train, the blueprints and items that you need to buy, and your profit margin. It will also affect how easily you can branch out into other modules. For example: If you're inventing Tachyon Beam Laser II blueprint, it's fairly trivial to branch out into other kinds of lasers.
The margins on some of the most popular items can be so thin that it's almost better buying them in market hubs and then reselling them at your target market, rather than inventing them, yourself. Then again, almost anything will sell if it's in a convenient location and isn't too overpriced for the convenience offered, and it may be more convenient for you to invent an item locally, if you can get the materials needed and are in low-security or null-security space.
Once you have a module in mind, look at that item's tech one blueprint on the market. Select the 'bill of materials' tab, then the 'invention' tab. This will show you what it takes to turn copies of the blueprint into tech two BPCs. Note several things: the racial encryption skill (for example, Minmatar Encryption Methods) and its pre-requisites; two science-related skills that require some combination of Science V, Mechanic V, and Electronics V; a racial Data Interface; and lastly, some datacores. You will need to do all of that to produce the blueprint happen.
Step Two: Copy The Blueprint
Once you have selected a module, you will need to buy the blueprint for the item. You will likely want to research both the material efficiency (ME) and production efficiency (PE) of the blueprint, so that you can manufacture the basic tech one item without a loss (tech one modules will be used as an ingredient when manufacturing the tech two version) and make copies faster.
The main ingredient in an invention job is a tech one blueprint of that item. It needs to have the maximum amount of runs possible in order to maximize your profit. For most modules, this means a 300-run blueprint copy. Successful module invention jobs made with a max-run BPC will have ten runs on them. If your BPC has less than the maximum possible number of runs, the tech two BPCs from your successful invention jobs have less, as well, despite using up the same ingredients. Obviously, this is undesirable.Step Three: Train Skills
Depending on what module you selected, you will need to train several skills. Firstly, the encryption skill (there is one for each race) and its pre-requisites. This will allow you to invent many things within that race's purview, though limited by your other skills.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that you have decided to invent Salvager II BPCs. That means that you need to train the following key skills: Minmatar Encryption Methods, Electromagnetic Physics, and Electronic Engineering. The higher these skills are, the more likely your invention jobs are to succeed. At least III in each of them is a good idea.
As pre-requisites to those skills, you will need Science V, Electronics V, Hacking II, and Electronics Upgrades III, plus other basic skills that you are likely to already have.
Minmatar Encryption Methods will serve you well. With other skills, it can potentially allow you to invent projectile turrets (including autocannons and artillery), gyrostabilizers, tracking computers and tracking enhancers, microwarpdrives and afterburners, warp disruptors and scramblers, and hull modification modules like damage controls, overdrive injector systems, nanofiber internal structures, and so forth.
That's a lot of options to work with, though your initial skills of Electromagnetic Physics and Electronic Engineering will pretty much only let you make Salvager IIs. You will need to train other advanced science skills in order to branch out.
Step Four: Get A Data Interface
The next item used in invention is called a Data Interface. It's kind of an "okay, now you can invent modules in this race's category" module. The various data interfaces used for module invention with each race are:
- Amarr: Occult Data Interface.
- Caldari: Esoteric Data Interface.
- Gallente: Incognito Data Interface.
- Minmatar: Cryptic Data Interface.
These are pretty cheap, on the market in Jita, because they are not expended or used up in any way, with use. Once you have one, you can always use it to run invention jobs of that category. Make sure that you don't buy the 'ship' or 'tuner' versions of these, by accident, as they are used for ship and rig invention, respectively.
Step Five: Get Datacores
Datacores are a commodity item produced by special agents. They are best purchased in Jita, or if you have R&D agents you can get them directly from them. Each invention job attempt consumes an amount of datacores. Unlike the data interface, they are used up in the attempt. This expenditure takes place whether the invention attempt succeeds or fails.
In our continuing example, we see on the Salvager I Blueprint's information that it requires two kinds of datacores: Electromagnetic Physics and Electronic Engineering. These are, of course, the skills that you need to train in order to invent this module. Which are the skills needed to procure those datacores from R&D agents. None of this is coincidence. It's fairly easy to set up a mass invention business, based entirely around things that you produce.
Because invention jobs often involve several attempts, it is a good idea to get a bunch of datacores at once. In our example, we might buy 20, each, of Electromagnetic Physics and Electronic Engineering datacores, so that we can try ten invention attempts.
Step Six: Run The Job
If all of your ducks are lined up in a row, find a station with available invention slots by clicking on your 'Science & Industry' button, selecting the 'Installations' tab, and setting 'Invention' as the option under the 'Activity' menu. Get all your stuff into that station.
Right click on one of your max-run tech one blueprint copies, and select invention. Don't worry about any of the options, for now. Just click accept, and assuming you've done everything right, you should be able to click 'Accept' and the job will be up and running. Each invention job takes a variable amount of time. For most modules, it will only take a few hours for a job to run. The slots used on your character are lab slots, the same that you would use for researching or copying blueprints.
Once the job has finished, you must use your Science & Industry window to complete the job, just like any other industry-related job. For each invention job that you finish, a window will pop up to indicate whether your attempts have been successful or not. Eventually, one or more will succeed. Congratulations, you have your first tech two blueprint copy!
If you did everything correctly, it should have ten runs on it, and have a material efficiency of -4. You can sell the blueprint on contracts, or if you're up to the task, assemble the tech two module yourself. Future guides will cover the process of actually making tech two goods, in greater detail.
Odds and Ends
When inventing modules with the related skills (see three) trained only to I, your base chance of success is about 42% per attempt. With those skills trained to IV, the chance improves to a little over 48% per attempt. The price of the items involved includes this ~50% loss rate. Just be sure that when you are calculating your profit margin, you take this into account.
When you are installing an invention job, you have the option of including a 'base item'. A item means a tech one or "named" version of the module that you are trying to invent. That item will be consumed, but will raise the chance of success by a bit. It usually doesn't make much sense to futz around with these, as they rarely improve the chance by enough to offset their cost.
You also have the option of including a Decryptor. Decryptors are colorfully named special items that may modify any of the following when included as an invention ingredient: chance of invention success, material efficiency or production efficiency of any BPCs produced, or number of runs. These are not recommended for use with modules because of their high cost, as they are expended when used. Some have their uses when inventing certain kinds of ships, however.
A good spreadsheet is really a must-have, in order to figure out whether you are actually making money. A successful invention business can make you richer, or at the very least allow you to supply yourself and perhaps your corporation with at-cost tech two modules.
I hope this guide made inventing modules a little bit clearer for you. I wish you the very best for your endeavors in EVE Online.