Sins of a Solar Spymaster #43 - Rethinking Profit in EVE
EVE is a game based upon an idealized capitalistic economy, a place where every market participant is immortal and cannot starve, where goods always work as advertised and there is no regulation whatsoever - a post-scarcity dystopia. For the vast majority of EVE players, confining themselves to the illusory safety of Empire space, the game is like a gigantic market simulation, and the goal is not to destroy your enemies, but merely to get rich. There's nothing wrong with that goal, per se, but every time I visit Empire space I'm struck by the sheer foolishness of the methods used by 80% of the playerbase to make money.
Making isk in EVE can be a repetitive and boring process.
Most players judge their profits by a ratio of Isk/hour. The problem is that this conception of profit is wrong - and yet it is widely propagated on official subforums such as Missions and Complexes and Science and Industry . There's little incentive for those who have figured out how to properly value their time to speak out and correct the mistakes of the poor bastard running Level Four missions solo in his precious Golem, laboriously looting and salvaging each and every wreck while patting himself on the back about making 40m isk/hour. He doesn't realize that the effort he's putting forth itself has a value, and that he's getting screwed even as his wallet thickens.
The two inescapable elements of player effort in EVE are attention and clicks. The more I have to pay attention to something, and the more times I must click on the EVE client, the more mental and physical effort I'm expending. Focusing entirely on isk/hour conceals the dramatic swings in effort/hour between various methods of profit-seeking in EVE. Why does this matter? Most of the isk-making activities players engage in are repetitive in the extreme, and dare we suggest boring. The core PvE mechanic in EVE (and, one could argue, even in PvP) amounts to pressing a button and then watching three grey bars slowly turn red. Wallowing in boring, repetitive activities will result in a player burning out and quitting the game, which rather defeats the purpose of making isk in the first place.
A player who understands that the core of profit comes from maximizing isk/effort rather than isk/hour has many more resources at his disposal. Because he pays less attention to his isk-making and is mashing his mouse button less than his isk/hour competitors, he has more opportunity to think and engage in the fun aspects of EVE - focusing on creating business plans, meddling in politics, solving puzzles (EFT, complexes, etc), PvPing or socializing. He gets rich slow - and whenever possible, he makes the code of the game expend effort for him, rather than doing it himself.
What are some of the best methods to maximize your ratio of isk/effort?
A second account with Dominix drones can help minimize your efforts.
*Drones, Drones, Drones: So much of the game's PvE revolves around ratting, kill missions or complexes. In any of these cases, your job is to destroy the little red crosses on your overview one by one. The bigger the spawn or mission, the more little crosses to click, lock up and kill. The conventional isk/hour solution is to use a Raven or one of its variants - the Caldari Navy Raven or Golem, or in extreme cases a Tengu. Ratters and mission-runners spend hours doing this, often funneling their earnings into buying expensive modules for their ratting ship in hopes of increasing their isk/hour even further.
Yet for the price of a single CNR or Golem (not even counting the overpriced mods) you can buy two Dominixes and an entire second account. In absolute isk/hour terms, a Golem or CNR will beat a single Dominix. However, the Dominix's drones do all the work for the pilot, completely skewing the effort/hour curve - and more so, when a second account is used. The Dominix pilot simply gets all the aggro from the rats, launches his drones, and keeps an idle eye on the EVE client while he watches a movie, plays a different game, or works on a business plan; the drones will automatically target and chase down every NPC for him. This works for any droneboat.
*Loot Smart: The corollary to the use of drones when engaging in ratting, kill missions or complexes: Don't waste time and effort looting and salvaging. Mission runners are infamous for bragging about how much additional isk they make for looting the wrecks of their missions. Yet in the time it takes you to move within 20km of a wreck, tractor it in, then begin the salvaging process (and repeat this for 30+ wrecks, in the case of most missions), an entirely new belt/mission/plex could have been completed. Particularly when you use drones to do all the work for you, the sheer number of additional clicks spent trying to loot and salvage is staggering. Some mission-runners have dedicated 'salvage alts' just for this purpose, increasing their workload, not realizing that they could double up on droneboats and tear through their missions twice as fast.
Mining is a huge part of EVE, but there are effective ways to maximize your efforts.
*Ice Mining: Mining is a huge portion of PvE in EVE, yet the typical path most miners follow involves getting a Hulk and sucking on the highest-isk rock they can find. Every three minutes, for each account they have active, a Hulk pilot focused on isk/hour will be moving ore from his hold to his jetcan. For the unlucky souls not using strip miners, the cycle of moving ore can be once a minute, depending on how big your hold is. In theory, you're making decent isk/hour - but in terms of effort, your time, attention and effort are focused almost entirely on picking up rocks in space, especially as the number of accounts mining increases. Meanwhile, your asteroids are gradually vanishing, meaning that you must constantly re-target new rocks. This means that when you strip a belt out, you have to set up your operation elsewhere, creating new bookmarks for your hauler - more time and effort.
The pro move from an effort perspective is ice mining. With a base cycle time of ten minutes, you can target an ice crystal and go do something else. Better still, ice crystals never move location and never run out of ice. This means that you can set up your bookmarks and use them until the servers shut down, and you never have to re-target anything. You make less isk/hour than the Hulk guy furiously strip mining, but he's actually doing work.
*Courier Missions: So you want me to go from point A to point B hauling some crap, and you'll pay me for it? And I can autopilot there? With a Blockade Runner and enough standings, courier missions can be quite profitable, and they take essentially no work as long as you aren't being sent outside of high security space. Grab your cargo, undock, press the autopilot button - come back fifteen minutes later, dock up, and voila, you're done.
*POS Mining/Reactions/Alchemy: Like using drones to kill NPCs, using a POS to make money allows you to have the EVE client do work for you, through very little input of your own. Towers are lovely tools for low-effort isk if set up properly, since that will work furiously for you 23/7 until they run out of fuel, which may be up to a month of real-world time. Your work is front-loaded at the initial setup of the tower; as long as you fuel the tower in bulk and use an Amarr or Gallente type for the silo size bonus, you can go for weeks without needing to expend effort on your setup. This is particularly true of mining raw material or alchemy; reaction hubs take more effort, but simple chains can be tweaked to only require weekly inputs. That's a sight easier than having to put in hourly work to make isk.
There are methods that can earn you isk through little effort.
*Datacores: Working once a month to fuel a tower seems like a tremendous amount of work to the guy with multiple R&D agents working for him. This is the ultimate in passive income: every day, whether you log in or not, these agents give you a certain amount of 'Research Points' which can be converted into datacores, which you can then sell on the open market. This does require an initial standings grind to reach the more worthwhile agents. Of course, knowing the key to minimizing effort, you can use droneboats or autopiloted courier missions to render the 'datacore grind' a walk in the park. If you have three characters on your account with R&D agents working for them, the passive income from datacores will pay your subscription costs in PLEX cards, making EVE not only free, but free forever - with no additional work on your part.
These are just a few of the methods available to someone willing to investigate how to put the EVE client to work for him. Few things are more satisfying in EVE than getting rich while being lazy; I haven't even touched on scamming, market manipulation, or long-copy invention. Remember: this is a game, effort is the enemy.